Group C’s final fixtures were rounded off with a strong Algerian side taking on Senegal, both teams capable of going through to the next round, depending on the result in the Ghana v South Africa match. Algeria came into the match smarting from an injury time conceded goal to Ghana, the deciding goal in the 1-0 loss. That had come after a convincing 3-1 victory over South Africa. Senegal on the other hand had beaten Ghana and ground out a draw with Bafana Bafana. Taking place in the Nuevo Estadio de Malabo both teams knew victory would see them through so an attacking open game was expected by the capacity crowd.
Merely two minutes into the game, Algeria should have been ahead thanks to some woeful Senegalese defending, Sofiane Feghouli’s touch when through on goal similarly poor, but a let-off for the Lions of Teranga nonetheless. On the ten minute mark though, some equally shocking defending was once again on display, Stephane Badji caught napping from an Algerian free-kick, leaving Leicester City Riyad Mahrez in acres of space with all the time in the world to slot past Bouna Coundoul in the Senegal goal. So an uphill task for Alain Giresse’s men with a competition exit looming they struggled to impose themselves on the game throughout the first half, limited to long range efforts, Algerian keeper M’Bholi uncharacteristically spilling an effort from Sadio Mane shortly before half-time.
The second half brought somewhat of a lull in proceedings, both teams creating very little in terms of clear cut chances, Algeria more confident in possession with Nabil Bentaleb and Sephair Taider impressing in the Desert Warriors midfield. Neither side troubled the opposition goal keeper until the final quarter though, Algeria then stepping up a gear and turning the screw on a tiring Senegal team. First Saphir Taider had a chance cleared off the line by Kara Mbodj but the respite was temporary as minutes later Nabil Bentaleb received a pass on the edge of he box from Feghouli before hammering home an absolute stunner. At 2-0 down further salt was rubbed into Senegalese wounds when news filtered through that Ghana had gone ahead in their match with South Africa. At 1-1 Senegal were still on track for a place in the Quarter-Finals but Andre Ayew’s headed winner broke Senegal as well as South African hearts.
Defensively, Senegal had disappointed again and in the end proved to be their undoing. Algeria, by far the stronger team on the night progress to a mouth-watering clash with the winners of Group D and will fancy their chances regardless of who they face on the 1st of January. Senegal coach Giresse, now at the end of his tenure admitted his side had underperformed and had not met expectations in the tournament. For the fans, disappointment continues as they look ahead to Lybia in two years time for a chance to lose the tag of underperforming super-pwer of the continent, the attacking riches they possess surely now need to be complemented with a more experienced back four. Time will tell if they can achieve this, whereas only days remain before we find out if an improving and exciting Algerian team can win again to grab a se-final spot at AFoN 2015.