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Senegal vs. Algeria, Mane vs. Mahrez in African Cup final
By GERALD IMRAY
CAIRO (AP) Riyad Mahrez scored from a free kick in the fifth minute of injury time for Algeria to beat Nigeria 2-1 on Sunday and progress to the African Cup of Nations final against Senegal.
Mahrez thundered his left-footed shot into the top corner in effectively the last kick of the game to stunningly settle the semifinal at Cairo International Stadium.
Algeria led through an own-goal by William Troost-Ekong but was pegged back when Nigeria was given a penalty for handball after a long VAR referral by the referee, who initially didn't award the spot-kick.
Nigeria took its opportunity - contentious as it was - to level at 1-1 from the spot through Odion Ighalo.
But Algeria captain Mahrez won it at the very death to send his team to its first final since it won its only African title nearly 30 years ago.
Senegal and Sadio Mane went through to the final earlier after beating Tunisia 1-0 in an extra-time thriller.
Senegal won with an own-goal in the 100th minute when goalkeeper Mouez Hassen pushed a free kick onto the head of defender Dylan Bronn and the ball bounced back into the Tunisian goal.
In a game of high drama, both teams missed penalties within a few minutes of each other in regulation time at the 30 June Stadium in Cairo.
Tunisia was then given another penalty late in extra time only for referee Bamlak Tessema Weyesa to check the VAR TV screen on the sidelines and dramatically reverse his decision - to the dismay of the Tunisians.
Senegal and Sadio Mane will play Algeria and Mahrez for a first African Cup title on Friday.
Tunisia should have gone ahead after winning the first penalty in the 73rd, when Ferjani Sassi's shot hit the upper arm of Senegal defender Kalidou Koulibaly as he threw himself in the way to block it.
Sassi took the penalty himself but it was weak and Senegal goalkeeper Alfred Gomis saved easily.
Senegal had its chance almost straight after, with Ismaila Sarr hacked down by Bronn in the area.
Henri Saivet took the spot-kick instead of Mane, who missed two penalties earlier in the tournament.
Saivet's penalty was low and hard to the bottom right corner, but Hassen dived full-stretch and brilliantly deflected it away with his left hand.
Hassen was responsible for giving away the game-deciding goal, though, and deciding Tunisia's fate.
In extra time, he went to punch away a free kick swung over from the right wing, but only forced it onto Bronn's head and it rebounded into the net.
The most contentious moment of a scintillating game came right near the end after Senegal's Idrissa Gueye was initially penalized for another handball in the area. The ball was headed down by a teammate and struck Gueye's hand as he tried to pull it away at the side of his body.
Ethiopian referee Weyesa awarded the penalty, then decided to make the long run over to the sidelines to check with the VAR video review system, which is being used at the African Cup for the first time.
After a tense delay, he ran back onto the field waving his arms to signal no penalty.
Senegal has never won the African Cup and has made just one final, in 2002 when the team also reached the quarterfinals of the World Cup. Current Senegal coach Aliou Cisse was a member of the 2002 team and he dropped to his knees with arms held aloft in celebration at the final whistle.
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Updated July 14, 2019