Liverpool’s crown jewels clashed in the AFCON final as Senegal’s Sadio Mane got the better of Egypt’s Mohammed Salah in a nail biting penalty shootout.
Seven minutes into the final, Mane placed the ball down on the penalty spot with a chance to put Senegal in front, Liverpool’s main man with the chance.
120 minutes on the clock, no goals and penalties would decide. With the score at 3-2 in favour of Senegal, up stepped Mane to win it.
Despite going the same way as the keeper, there was no mistake this time, Mane had won it for Senegal. 65 years of hurt was over.
Salah down to take penalty number five for Egypt would not get a go. Why oh why did he not take one earlier?
A mistake that may have cost Egypt the title.
The African Cup of Nations brought together the very best of Africa and in this case, the Premier League.
Liverpool’s Salah, Mane and Naby Keita arguably made up the three best players of the tournament.
Everton also contributed to the quality of the competition with Nigerian winger Alex Iwobi turning out for his country.
Egypt’s hopes rested unquestionably on captain Salah, with the forward in red hot form this season for Liverpool.
Following a disappointing opening defeat to Nigeria, Salah opened his account for the campaign with the only goal in a win against Guinea-Bissau.
A win against Sudan set up a tasty knockout game with Ivory Coast.
A 0-0 draw saw the game head to penalties, Egypt progressing 5-4 with Salah firing in the winning penalty.
A semi final win over Morocco needed extra time after Salah had equalised in the second half with only his second goal of the tournament.
An assist for the winning goal in extra time proved crucial from Salah.
Senegal had emerged as pre-tournament favourites despite having never won the competition.
In a squad boasting some of the best players in the world, there was no doubt Liverpool’s Mane was the very best on show.
Senegal got the business done in the groups, topping the table but without conviction.
Two 0-0s followed a Mane 97th minute penalty, securing a 1-0 win over Zimbabwe.
Easing past Cape Verde which again saw Mane on the scoresheet, set up a quarter final with Equatorial Guinea.
No goal from Liverpool’s number 10 this time but an assist helped his side through with a 3-1 victory.
In the semi final Mane again dominated, with another goal and assist, brushing aside Burkina Faso, 3-1.
The final had set up the game all Reds fans had wanted, Mane v Salah, Senegal v Egypt.
Keita enjoyed a stellar tournament with his Guinea side, despite crashing out to Gambia in the round of 16.
Keita provided eye-catching performances, that saw the midfielder selected in the ‘best XI’ of the group stage.
Two man of the match performances against Malawi and Senegal, was enough to see Guinea through.
Losing to Zimbabwe ultimately cost Guinea top spot to Senegal but a rocket thunderbolt from Keita proved his goal-scoring ability.
It was not to be in the knockout round, as captain Keita took up a 1 match ban during the game following two yellow cards in the group stages.
Everton’s Alex Iwobi had a disappointing tournament to add to a disappointing season so far for the Nigerian.
Winning three games from three, outside favourites had a perfect group stage and looked good.
Iwobi came off the bench in the first two matches and started the third but added no impact of note.
His performances did reward him with a start however in the knockout game against Tunisia, but a red card on the 66th minute mark summed up his tournament and season.
A 1-0 loss ended Nigeria’s hopes of success after such a promising group stage, which saw them beat eventual runners up, Egypt.
Iwobi speaking to BBC claimed the ‘Super Eagles’ fans “deserved more”.
The two finalists will return to Liverpool to join up with Keita and the rest of the team as the Reds challenge for trophies on four fronts.
Iwobi will be concentrating on the other end of the table at Everton, hoping to make a good impression on new manager Frank Lampard.
(Featured Image – Credit – WikiCommons. Author – Кирилл Венедиктов https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/deed.en)