Sadio Mane’s early strike proved the difference in Senegal’s 1-0 victory in the Africa Cup of Nations, but he again had trouble converting from the penalty spot.
After qualifying from the group stage as runners-up Senegal were pitted against Uganda in the last-16 where a pragmatic performance paved the way for victory, setting up a meeting with Benin in the quarter-finals on July 10.
Liverpool’s No. 10 made his third successive start of the tournament and again took his place on the left flank as a member of Aliou Cisse’s four-man forward line, which included M’Baye Niang, Henri Saivet and Ismaila Sarr.
Mane swiftly picked up from where he left off after netting a brace in Senegal’s 3-0 win over Kenya as his first-half strike proved decisive in securing his sides’ progression to the next round.
The goal arrived in the 16th minute after Senegal capitalised on a loose pass in midfield where a quick interchange of possession saw the ball threaded through to Mane who took one touch before steering a left-foot finish across the ‘keeper:
‘How easy was that?’
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It was Mane’s third goal in as many appearances at the tournament and one which moved him to the top of the AFCON goalscoring charts – and one ahead of Liverpool teammate Mohamed Salah – with six fixtures remaining in the round of 16.
The 27-year-old could have extended his lead even further, however, after Senegal were awarded a penalty midway through the second half after a reckless challenge on the Liverpool attacker by Uganda’s stopper Denis Onyango.
Mane – who had been subject to some roughhousing throughout the 90 minutes – was fortunate to escape without injury as the ‘keeper propelled into him feet first.
It was the third spot-kick of the tournament for Mane and the second he failed to convert as Onyango, who only received a yellow card for his challenge, dived correctly to his left to deny Mane.
While he would have undoubtedly been disappointed after spurning the chance to create a comfortable buffer, Senegal’s lead was rarely threatened as Uganda failed to replicate the impressive form shown in the group stages.
It was a rather conservative performance from Senegal, but it was one which keeps their dreams of winning the tournament alive as the quarter-finals now await.
While a number of Mane’s Liverpool teammates start their pre-season preparations on Saturday, Senegal’s progress means the return of the Reds’ No. 10 will be again pushed back as he is expected to be handed a three-week break at the conclusion of his international commitments.
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