By Samindra Kunti
January 31 – Liverpool’s Sadio Mane missed the decisive spot kick as Cameroon beat Senegal 5-4 on penalties to reach the Africa Cup of Nations semi-finals. Seven-times winners Egypt also progressed to the last four with a narrow 1-0 win against rivals Morocco.
Tournament favorites Senegal began their quarterfinal impressively, suffocating the Indomitable Lions. West Ham’s Cheikhou Kouyate headed an early chance over the bar and Stoke City’s Mame Biram Diouf was close with a lob from inside the area. In the 65th minute Cameroon registered their first attempt on target when Robert Ndip Tambe volleyed straight at the Senegalese goalkeeper Abdoulaye Diallo.
Cameroon grew into the match and in extra-time Diallo saved Senegal with a fine stop from Jacques Zoua’s close range shot. The teams were not to be separated until Sadio Mane stepped forward at 4-4 in the penalty shoot-out. The Liverpool striker’s spot kick was saved by young Cameroonian goalkeeper Fabrice Ondoa.
That presented Vincent Aboubakar with a chance to seal victory and the Besiktas forward made no mistake. As Hugo Broos and his team sprinted in celebration towards their new hero Ondoa, Mane collapsed in tears.
The Teranga Lions have never won an African Cup of Nations. They made a sole appearance in the 2002 final when they were beaten 3-2 on penalties by Cameroon. At the time, the Senegal team included two-time African Footballer of the Year El Hadji Diouf, playmaker Khalilou Fadiga and the country’s record scorer Henri Camara.
Saturday’s quarterfinal in Franceville was a copy of the 2002 final and after the penalty shoot-out Africa’s most expensive player was inconsolable. “It is very difficult to understand why Senegalese football cannot win when you see the generation we had in the past and now,” said Augustin Senghor, the president of the Senegalese Football Association, the FSF. “It is a very great equation for us.”
Liverpool have arranged a private jet for Mane to be flown back to Merseyside on time for Tuesday’s clash with league leaders Chelsea.
Record winners Egypt did progress to the semi-finals. On a poor pitch, a topic of contention at these finals, the Pharaohs defeated Morocco with substitute Mahmoud Abdel-Moneim stabbing home a dramatic 87th-minute winner.
For much of the second half Morocco had been dominant, imposing a high pressing game. Moroccan defender Romain Saiss was denied by the crossbar. Midfielder Mbark Boussoufa hit the woodwork as well with a delightful curler.
Morocco’s elimination brings to an end Herve Renard’s quest to win the African Cup of Nations with three different countries. The Frenchman won the title with both Zambia and Ivory Coast in the past.
In the other quarter-finals Burkina Faso toppled Tunisia 2-0 and Ghana edged DR Congo 2-1. The team of Avram Grant will play Cameroon in the semi-finals while Egypt will fancy their chances agains the 2013 finalists Burkina Faso.
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