By Satish Sekar © Satish Sekar (May 2nd 2023)
Algeria’s coach, Arezki Remmane, was gracious in defeat despite the absence of VAR clearly affecting the result. Sénégal’s Amara Diouf was a different class, bagging a brace and an assist in his deserved Player of the Match performance, but should he have had the opportunity?
The whole match turned on one incident as the first half drew to a close. Remmane was convinced that his team should have had a penalty, but play was waved on by South African referee, Jelly Chavani, and his assistant. Striker Shain Chetioui beat two defenders to put him through with just the keeper Serigne Diouf to beat. However, Diouf appeared to have brought Chetioui down.
Not only would that have made it a clear penalty, but the keeper should have received his marching orders too. Remmane made no excuses, but his point that VAR would have led to the right decision was hard to dispute. It required the different angles of VAR to resolve, although Chetioui was adamant that it was a penalty.
Instead of a receiving a penalty and having a man advantage Sénégal swept up field Lassana Traoré’s cross from the right should have been dealt with by Mastias Hammache, but the Algerian keeper made a hash of it allowing Diouf to head it into an unguarded net after four minutes of added time at the end of the first half.
Instead of being a goal and man up, Remmane found his team a goal down at half time and it soon got worse as Omar Sall was brought down by Hammache to concede a penalty which Diouf converted to double Sénégal’s lead after 62 minutes.
With just under 5 minutes of mormal time remaining Diouf turned prover on the left of the area squaring it for an easy close range finish by the substitute Mamadou Sawane, leaving the Teranga Cubs comfortably topping Group B.
The Debutants’ First Point
The second match in Group A saw Congo held by Somalia, appearing at their first major tournament. Somalia’s coach Nur Mohamed Amin felt his team deserved all three points. However, their keeper Abdikadir Mohamed had to be alert to twice deny Ayel Wumba Niati Nzouzi in the opening half hour – a period the Congolese dominated. Somewhat against the run of play Dini Dahir claimed the debutants’ first ever goal at this level after being put through by Idriis Aden.
With an upset possibly on the cards Congo ramped up the pressure in the second half, but found Somalia’s keeper in top form. After 57 minutes Ayel found a way past Mohamed to level the scores. Somalia was denied a famous win as Chelcy Banazebi saved Abdiasis Bahur’s low shot in the last minute of normal time. The draw ensured that the Teranga Cubs would go through to the quarter-finals as the top team in Group A regardless of the final round of group stage matches due to the head to head rule, although their goal difference was impressive too. While the hosts would remain at Algiers’ Nelson Mandela Stadium. Sénégal and Somalia would travel to Constantine’s Chahid Hamlaoui Stadium for their encounter.