Senegal faced an unexpected exit from the Africa Cup of Nations at the hands of the host nation, Ivory Coast, following a hard-fought 1-1 draw in regular time.
The intense battle extended into extra-time, ultimately culminating in a dramatic penalty shootout. Unfortunately for the Lions of Teranga, they succumbed to a 5-4 loss in the shootout, marking the end of their title defense.
Senegal came right off the block as a Sadio Mane cross was swept home by Habib Diallo, to break the deadlock in the third minute. The forward who plays for Saudi Pro Club; Al Shabaab took the ball down with his chest before firing a left foot shot into the roof of the net.
Mane was lucky not to receive his matching orders five minutes later, as an impetuous challenge on Nottingham Forest forward, Ibrahim Sangare saw him receive caution from Gabon referee, Pierre Atcho with Sangare being stretched off for treatment before coming back on.
The Elephants controlled proceedings despite trailing at half-time, having improved from the 4-0 drubbing at the hands of Equatorial Guinea that happened a week ago.
Ismaila Sarr would go down to the challenge of Odilon Kossounou, but the Video Assistant Review [VAR] decided there wasn’t enough contact to award a penalty.
The hosts’ nation supporters were visibly dejected as the clock dwindled down, with fear of elimination from a team that has been surviving through the skin of their teeth to be at the tournament.
The team had squeezed into the last 16 as one of the third-best placed teams from the group phase, and this came after the dismissal of Jean- Louis Gasset last week following under-par performances.
This would not deter the host nation as former Arsenal winger, Nicolas Pepe who came in as a substitute was clumsily brought down Edouard Mendy and despite being booked in what the referee deemed as a dive, the VAR review clearly showed Mendy’s challenge in the box warranted a penalty.
The referee revoked the yellow-card against Pepe, booking Mendy instead and awarding Ivory Coast a penalty.
Frank Kessie would step up and equalize for his country six minutes from time, sending the game into extra-time.
Mane had the biggest chance of added time as a cross from Ismaila Sarr found the Al-Attifaq player but Yahia Fofana was on sight to save the shot.
Moussa Niakhate would miss a crucial penalty for the Senegalese with Kessie on-hand to take advantage and slot in the decisive penalty to send the host nation to the quarter-finals.
Ivory Coast will play either Mali or Burkina Faso on Saturday.