Cairo, Egypt, July 20, GNA - It was a beautiful story of the lads from North Africans - Algeria, who had laboured for the past 29 years in search of a trophy at the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON).
It finally materialised, when they played Senegal in the finals of the 2019 AFCON at the Cairo International Stadium on Friday, July 19, when they handed West African giants Senegal a lone goal defeat.
Algeria started the AFCON as one of the favourites and indeed ended on that note beating every opponent on sight, including Senegal who suffered a defeat at the hands of the champions at the group stages as well as the finals, all with the same margin.
For a country that had laboured to win the AFCON for the past 29 years, they made their intentions known right from the start and never lost a single match in the competition.
They defeated Kenya 2-0, beat Senegal by a lone goal, and completed the group stages with 3-0 drubbing on Tanzania to top their group.
Guinea was no challenge for them in the round of 16, as they demolished them by another 3-0 defeat and beat Cote D' Ivoire on penalties (5-4), after the match ended one all in regulation time in the quarter finals.
It was a sweet victory over Nigeria in the semi-finals as Riyad Mahrez delivered a beautiful free-kick in the final minutes of their semi-final game to book a place in the finals after match Nigeria secured a late minute equaliser.
Motivated by the strong desire to win the trophy after 1990, the Desert Foxes of Algeria played their hearts out in the finals to win the long awaited trophy, even at the cost of the blood.
Though their journey to glory was a beautiful one, their game in the finals was all about victory as they demonstrated tactics over their opponents with the desire to win.
It was Baghdad Bounedjah’s first minute deflected effort which handed Algeria their second Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) title.
Bounedjah picked the ball after Chekou Kouyate had missed his attempted tackle on the left, drifted in and struck a shot that came off Salif Sane, the man coming in for the suspended Koulubaly.
The ball took a punishing dip beyond the keeper into the net with one half of the stadium stunned into silence while the other half in green and white of Les Fennecs roared in deafening crescendo.
Algeria who were playing only their second final since 2010 held on to the slim advantage for the rest of the 90 minutes while Senegal’s wait for a maiden AFCON title still lingers on.
It is another case of so near yet so far away, the Lions of Teranga having lost another final in 2002 in Mali.
Algeria’s tact of starting off quick and playing the ball in Senegal’s half worked perfectly until halfway through when the Teranga Lions started roaring slowly into the game.
Henry Saivet attempted to catch keeper Adi-Rais Mbohli off his guard with a freekick from range, but the hawk-eyed shot stopper adjusted quickly to gather, whilst Mbaye Niang had a brilliant effort later with a superbly struck volley from range.
Sane nearly made amends in exact same fashion he had conceded in the first minute, but this time his strike from range off a corner was deflected over the bar.
Senegal, however had sigh of relief in the 60th minute when when Djamel Benlamri seemed to have handled the ball inside the box off a Sarr cross.
After consulting the VAR, the referee overturned his earlier decision of a penalty and gave possession back to the Algerians, but Senegal kept their push on and came close again in the 65th minute when Sarr beautifully picked up a long ball from Lamine Gassama before striding into the box, gliding past the keeper but his eventual shot came off the side netting.
Youssef Sabaly was next to line up an effort when he picked the ball on the left from Sadio Mane before moving into good shooting range, but his rocket of a shot was smothered behind for a corner by Mbohli.
With the clock ticking and a goal urgently needed, Senegal boss Aliou Cisse made changes, Saivet coming off for Mbaye Diagne, Niang came off for Keita Balde while earlier, Krepin Diatta had come on for Papa Ndiaye but this was not enough to grant him the equaliser.
Djamel Belmadi on the other hand, responded by making a defensive change, Sofiane Feghouli paving way for Mehdi Jean and Algeria managed to hold on to the score-line and secured the Cup of Nations crown with an unbeaten run.