Seventeen years after playing their first Africa Cup of Nations final in 2002, Senegal will be playing a second in few days after defeating Tunisia 1-0 in extra time in the 2019 AFCON semi-final on Sunday.
At the 30 June Stadium in Cairo, the Teranga Lions quickly took matters into their hands, controlling much of the first half as the Carthage Eagles opted for a defensive option.
However, Henri Saivet and Sadio Mane kept failing to convert their numerous chances thanks in part to goalkeeper Mouez Hassen’s exploits in the post.
Tunisia had a couple of opportunities through Youssef Msakni and Wahbi Khazri, who kept cutting in through the flanks but a quick assembling Senegalese defensive bloc made life difficult for the North Africans as both teams went for the break with the score goalless.
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Naim Sliti replaced diminished Msakni after the break, which brought some pace to the Tunisian side but Senegal retook possession after about 10 minutes but M’Baye Niang kept wasting their final balls, which led to his substitution by the hour mark, with Mbaye Diagne coming in.
The game remained locked, without goals or openings until the 75th minute when Napoli defender Kalidou Koulibaly handled the ball in the box to gift Tunisia a penalty.
Ferjani Sassi’s soft spot kick floated into the gloves of Senegal goalkeeper Alfred Gomis, keeping the score still goalless.
Moments later, the Teranga Lions were awarded a penalty as well but, once more, and like Tunisia, they failed to transform it, with goalkeeper Mouez Hassen deflecting Henri Saivet’s effort to a corner.
With no goals at full time, the match prolonged into extra time, during much of which Senegal were on ascendancy, with Dylan Bronn conceding an own goal from a free kick punched away by goalkeeper Hassen in the 101st minute, handing the Lions the lead.
Tunisia had a lifeline when they were awarded a penalty in the 115th minute, a chance to equalise and probably drag the meeting to a penalty shootout, but after reviewing footage on VAR the referee cancelled his earlier decision.
Senegal fought hard during the remainder of the game to conserve their victory to book a place in the 2019 AFCON final. They will meet the winner of the second semi-final between Algeria and Nigeria on July 19.