Sadio Mane scored a last-minute penalty to give Senegal a 1-0 win over Zimbabwe in their opening fixture at the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations.
Because of the positive cases of coronavirus in his squad, Aliou Cisse made changes to his starting XI as Queens Park Rangers goalkeeper Seny Dieng replaced Chelsea’s Edouard Mendy and Olympiakos’ Pape Abou Cisse and PSG’s Abdou Diallo co-ordinated the defence in the absence of Kalidou Koulibaly.
It was an end-to-end start at the Stade Omnisports de Bafoussam and the two teams’ defences were difficult to break for the majority of the game.
Senegal had their first shot on target in the 24th minute when Fode Ballo-Toure played Mane through on goal but he did not hit the ball with enough power to beat goalkeeper Petros Mhari.
Seven minutes later, Keita Balde received the first yellow card in the encounter after he was found to have held the ball with his hand and the Teranga Lions ended the first half with a shot from Ballo-Toure inside the penalty area but he failed to hit the target.
Zimbabwe, however, opted to begin the second 45 minutes with higher attacking drive by introducing Lyon’s Tino Kadewere before the resumption.
In the final 10 minutes, the Warriors pushed for a goal and they had an effort on target when Teenage Hadebe tried to connect with Knowledge Musona’s free-kick but his effort lacked power to beat Dieng.
Senegal were finally relieved in the 94th minute of stoppage time after Kelvin Madzongwe blocked Pape Gueye’s shot with his hand and the referee immediately pointed to the penalty spot.
The Zimbabwe midfielder was consequently handed a yellow card while Mane stepped forward to convert the resulting kick and he rightfully sent goalkeeper Mhari in the wrong direction to give the 2019 finalists maximum points.
The result means Zimbabwe are yet to keep a clean sheet after 13 matches at the Africa Cup of Nations but they will turn their attention to their next Group B match against Malawi on January 14. Senegal face Guinea next on Friday.