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Sunday, December 10, 2023

Young Senegalese side stage second half rally and hold their nerve in PK shootout to seal spot in COSAFA Cup final

Eswatini got off to a brilliant start and were in excellent position to seal their first ever COSAFA Cup final appearance at halftime, but folded in the second half due to a sending off and a Senegalese side that never gave up as the young Teranga Lions triumphed in a penalty kick shootout on Friday. Pape Djitte and El Hadji Kane scored to bring Senegal back even before goalkeeper Pape Ndiaye saved all three Swazi penalty kick attempts to complete an inspired comeback victory.

In a matchup of the veteran Eswatini team against the youth of Senegal’s domestic based side, it appeared experience would emerge the winner based on the early stages of the semifinal matchup. After Eswatini keeper Mathabela Sandanezwe came up big to smother a 7th minute attempt from forward Mohamed Ba, the Swazis opened the scoring in the 15th minute. Senegal keeper Pape Ndiaye completely missed coming out to deal with a Fanelo Mamba long throw-in and Sifiso Matse collected the ball to easily dispatch his finish into the empty net, giving Eswatini a surprise lead.

Senegal’s apparent nightmare got even worse only five minutes later. Mamba’s long throws were a weapon for Eswatini all tournament and once again another heave from the touch line led to Eswatini’s second goal. Target forward Sabelo Ndzinisa leaped to flick a perfect header from eight yards out that went beyond Ndiaye’s reach and bounced inside the far post to further stun the Senegalese. An even first half saw Eswatini take advantage of their opportunities and go into halftime with a 2-0 lead.

However, the Senegalese never looked completely out of the match and the 58th minute brought hope when the Teranga Lions cut the deficit in half. Following the clearance of an Eswatini corner kick, Dominique Mendy sent a long ball over the top to the right wing where Mohamed Ba received before directing a low cross to the far post. Sandanezwe failed to cut off the service and Djitte was there to apply the finish into the empty net and Eswatini’s lead suddenly was on shaky ground. In the 67th minute a Senegal comeback seemed inevitable when Mamba collected the second of two yellow cards within five minutes, putting Eswatini a player down.

The 80th minute brought Senegal the prized equalizer when Falilou Fall sent an early diagonal cross into the Eswatini penalty area. Center defender El Hadji Kane, operating as a makeshift striker, took the ball down well with enough space to collect and direct his shot past Sandanezwe from six yards out and it was game on. The teams ended regulation tied 2-2 and went straight to a penalty kick shootout.

Goalkeeper Ndiaye of ASC Jaraaf, the oldest player on the Senegal side at 28-years-old, seized the occasion to lead his team to victory in the shootout. Ndiaye saved all three penalty attempts from the Eswatini side while Kane, Albert Diene and Ba all put their spot kicks away with aplomb to give guest side Senegal a birth in the final against either South Africa or Mozambique, who play later on Friday.

Highlights of the first 2021 COSAFA Cup semifinal are below including the penalty kick shootout.