2021 Africa Cup of Nations favorites Senegal finally found their groove on Sunday, dispatching Equatorial Guinea 3-1 to advance to the semifinals. Famara Diedhiou, Cheikhou Kouyaté and Ismaïla Sarr all found the net for the Teranga Lions, who will take on Burkina Faso on Wednesday in Yaoundé with a berth in the final on the line.
The early signs were promising for the Equatoguinean team, who came out with energy for the big occasion and managed to prevent the Senegalese attack from clicking. Senegal’s star power meant the Teranga Lions could strike at any time, however, and found the opener a little before the half hour mark. Left back Saliou Ciss passed inside to Sadio Mané and the Liverpool forward looked up and sent Diedhiou in on goal with a through ball. Diedhiou made no mistake with the opportunity and shot past Equatoguinean keeper Jesús Owono at his near post.
Equatorial Guinea responded well and kept the Senegalese from adding a second going into halftime to remain in contention. An inspired start to the second half saw the Nzalang Nacional threaten and then equalize. In the 50th minute, Ivan Salvador Édu’s chipped pass into the Senegalese penalty area hit the hand of center back Kalidou Koulibaly, but after a penalty was initially awarded the call was controversially overturned by the Video Assistant Referee.
Five minutes later, however, it was the underdogs who leveled the match a precise team attack ended with Pablo Ganet’s clever pass finding Jannick Buyla for a low finish past Edouard Mendy in the Senegalese goal. Soon after Equatorial Guinea right back Carlos Akapo got forward and sent in a dangerous cross that just went past Emilio Nsue at the far post.
That was as good as it got for the Nzalang Nacional. A series of substitutions at around the hour mark sparked Senegal into action and one of them, Cheikhou Kouyaté, put the Teranga Lions into the lead for good. After a 69th minute corner kick was cleared high into the air, Koulibaly leaped up and nodded the ball towards the goal. Akapo’s defensive header went right into the path of Kouyaté and the Crystal Palace midfielder finished past Owono from close range.
Another notable substitute for Senegal was Sarr, who returned from a knee injury to make his 2021 AFCON debut. The Watford FC player made his return in style, applying an easy 80th minute finish after Koulibaly’s lofted ball was brilliantly taken down by Ciss on the left wing and played across the penalty box.
Highlights of the match are below.