It was heartbreak for Sadio Mane after Senegal fell to a narrow 1-0 defeat at the hands of Algeria in the Africa Cup of Nations final.
Mane was a mainstay in Aliou Cissé’s side throughout the tournament as Senegal looked to clinch their first AFCON title.
Despite missing Senegal’s opening group game through suspension, Liverpool’s No. 10 proved to be instrumental in his country’s success having notched three goals and one assist.
Senegal secured their passage to the final with three consecutive 1-0 victories in the knockout rounds, where their semi-final tie with Tunisia had to be decided in extra-time.
Cissé’s side, who were without key defender Kalidou Koulibaly, got off to the worst possible start as Baghdad Bounedjah saw his deflected effort sensationally loop over the ‘keeper and into the back of an empty net to give Algeria the lead with just three minutes on the clock:
"The freakiest of finishes!"
A dream start for Algeria as Bounedjah scores in the second minute! #AFCON2019final pic.twitter.com/qDITCAcnsk
— Eurosport UK (@Eurosport_UK) July 19, 2019
From that point on, however, Senegal dominated proceedings and penned Algeria in their defensive half, but they struggled to turn their possession into clear cut chances on goal.
M’baye Niang came closest after unleashing a stunning volley which narrowly avoided the top corner, while Mane was in and amongst the action but once again found himself the subject of the oppositions physical challenges.
In the end, Senegal were left to lament their finishing and poor set-piece delivery in a first half which saw tempers flare from both sides.
Sadio Mane with the footwork ?? pic.twitter.com/V123kbPrlY
— SuperSport ??? (@SuperSportTV) July 19, 2019
The second half started where the first left off as Senegal pushed for an equaliser, with the No. 10 taking a prominent role, highlighted by a number of surging runs and a show of strength in the penalty area which led to a rare sight on goal.
Senegal looked to have a clear route to goal after the referee awarded a penalty midway through the second term for handball, only to reverse his decision after consulting VAR.
Algeria continued to offer little going forward and for all of Senegal’s attacking impetus, they were unable to successfully navigate beyond the north African sides’ stubborn defensive line, where a host of shots found either the goalkeepers hands or the stands.
It proved to be the second narrow defeat for Senegal at the hands of Algeria after falling to a similar scoreline in the group stages.
The conclusion of the tournament sees Mane’s 2018/19 season finally come to an end nearly seven weeks after Liverpool lifted the Champions League trophy in Madrid.
The Reds will keep tabs on Mane as he now takes off for a well-deserved break, where he will miss that start of the season should he take the full three-week break that is allocated to the players.
It would mean he would miss the Community Shield meeting with Man City and the Premier League opener against Norwich in 21 days time, where his availability from that point on remains unknown as he will likely take part in his own condensed pre-season upon his return.
* Video above from Eurosport; geographic restrictions may apply.