Ismail Bennacer has been named best player of Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon). The player now joins another Algerian, Rabah Madjer to win the coveted award.
This was just the icing on the cake following Algeria’s Afcon 1-0 triumph over Senegal in the final at the Cairo International Stadium in Egypt.
Algerian forward Baghdad Bounedjah scored the only goal on the night, as early as the second minute after his shot took a wicked deflection off Senegalese defender Salif Sane and looped into the back of the net past a stranded Alfred Gomis.
Both were considered Pre-tournament favorites with Senegal arriving as the highest ranking African nation while Algeria’s recent performances warranted them a mention among the elite groups.
And throughout the tournament, no team has applied themselves better than the two finalists with Algeria not losing a game enroute the final while Sengal’s only blemish came against Algeria during their clash in the group stages.
The early goal, seemed to have worked to Algeria’s game plan as they sat in a very compact medium block restricting Sadio Mane and co. to a few sniffs at their goal.
Furthermore, the pairing of Djamel Benlamri and Aissa Mandi at the heart of defence was vital as both were willing to sweat blood for their team, and literally Benlamri literally spilt blood for the cause after a clash with Mane
The Desert Foxes set-up turned the game into a scrappy, bad tempered game with most of Senegal’s chances presented through set-pieces especially in the first half but the delivery was largely dire.
The Lions of Teranga thought they had been awarded a chance to equalise in the second period, when the referee awarded handball against Adlene Guedioura.
However, after checking with VAR, Cameroonian referee Neant Alioum reversed his decision.
Algeria, rode their luck at times but still showed great game management to wind down the clock. Senegal’s best chance fell to Ismaila Sarr, but the Rennes winger blew his effort over the crossbar from 15 yards out.
With 30 seconds of stoppage time remaining, Senegal’s Sane stood up to take a free-kick, but his effort went straight into the wall and Algeria’s celebrations were able to begin as the final whistle went.
Algeria claimed their first title in 29 years while Senegal and coach Aliou Cisse will continue waiting for continental success which continues to elude them as they are yet to win the AFCON; losing both their final appearances.