AFCON: Late Mane penalty gives Senegal win against Zimbabwe
PA Fabrizio Carabelli
Sadio Mane scored a penalty late in injury time to give Senegal a win against Zimbabwe in their opening Africa Cup of Nations game.
The game seemed destined to end in a draw until the referee awarded Senegal a spot kick at the death.
Liverpool's Mane dispatched the penalty to break Zimbabwe hearts who after a spirited performance will be disappointed to lose a point so late on.
Mane's Senegal are considered favourites by many to win the tournament so a draw in the opening game would have been a shock, but the late penalty keeps them on track.
They had several chances to win the game throughout the 90 minutes but were unable to breach the Zimbabwe goal until the penalty was scored.
Senegal did almost take the lead in the first minute, with Mane setting up Bayern Munich man Boune Sarr but his effort was drilled narrowly wide.
Moments later Mane flashed his off-the-ball movement ability and a diagonal through ball almost released him in behind but he was halted by the Zimbabwe defence.
The Liverpool forward lines up in a more central role for his country rather than on the left where most Reds will be more accustomed to seeing him play. But it was from the left-hand side where he created another huge chance.
Dropping deeper and wider, he slipped a ball in behind for Cisse, who looked set to break the deadlock but missed his opportunity.
Former Everton man Idrissa Gana Gueye then got the ball stuck under his feet after a pass from Mane set up a one-v-one, which Zimbabwe goalkeeper Petros Mhari smothered to prevent what looked to be a clear goal.
Senegal enjoyed more of the ball during the first half with 61% possession but couldn't convert that dominance into a lead.
Despite this, both sides had a similar amount of attempts on goal in the opening 45 minutes, with Senegal (8) having narrowly more than Zimbabwe (7).
Minutes into the second half, Senegal really should've taken the lead.
A corner caught Zimbabwe's 'keeper Mhari in no man's land leaving a free header for Olympiacos centre-back Papa Cisse but he missed the target.
Liverpool's Mane began to come deeper to get the ball in a bid to ignite some creativity for Senegal with the game remaining goalless.
On the counterattack, it looked like he was about to finally give Senegal the lead.
A ball across the face of the Zimbabwe goal was destined to land at the feet of Mane until once again Mhari made a crucial intervention, diving to make a save before Mane had the chance to tap in.
Senegal continued to push on for a late winner, but to no avail, as the game looked set to end 0-0 until Mane grabbed a 97th minute winner from the spot.
In the opening games of the tournament, hosts Cameroon won 2-1 thanks to two penalties against covid-stricken Burkina Faso, while Cape Verde beat Ethiopia 1-0.
Naby Keita is representing Guinea at the tournament, who are in the same group as Senegal. They face Malawi later.
Mohamed Salah's Egypt start their campaign against Nigeria on Tuesday.
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