Penalties and VAR madness were the order of the day as Senegal scraped through to the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations final with a 1-0 win over Tunisia.
Both sides missed from the spot as normal time wore on but Tunisia’s hero, Mouez Hassen, quickly turned into the villain, flapping at a Senegal cross and knocking the ball onto the unfortunate Dylan Bronn, who scored the own goal to send his side crashing out at the semi-final stage.
Tunisia were incredibly unlucky not to get a penalty late into extra time when VAR overturned a handball against Idrissa Gana Gueye but it’s Senegal who march into Friday’s showpiece in Egypt.
Who were the big winners and losers from the match?
Read on to find out.
Winner – Alfred Gomis
A frantic final 15 minutes of normal time saw Tunisia win a somewhat fortunate penalty, with Kalidou Koulibaly blocking Ferjani Sassi’s shot from the edge of the box with his arm. It was by his side and close to his body, while the ball was struck with great power from close distance, but it did stop the shot going on goal.
Sassi stepped up to take the penalty but was unable to convert, with Senegal ‘keeper Alfred Gomis doing brilliantly to stay on his feet as the Tunisia midfielder tried to outfox him with a stuttered run-up. Gomis waited for Sassi to pick his spot before diving down to his right and although the penalty was weak and nowhere near the corner, the Senegal stopper could have easily sold himself early and allowed a simple pass into the net.
Loser – Ferjani Sassi
He had the chance to hand Tunisia a late lead and fire them into their first Africa Cup of Nations final since 2004 but Sassi fluffed his lines from the penalty spot.
As we mentioned, Gomis did brilliantly not to fall for Sassi’s run-up but one look at the midfielder’s attempt may knock you sick. No pace, no power, no direction and no conviction.
"One of the worst penalties I have seen!" ?
— Eurosport UK (@Eurosport_UK) July 14, 2019
Having had the chance to fire Tunisia within touching distance of Afcon glory, Sassi had to watch on as Senegal seized their chance in extra time.
Losers – Mouez Hassen & Dylan Bronn
Hassen should have been a winner. He saved Henri Saivet’s penalty in fine fashion during a mind-boggling close to normal time, denying Senegal a late winner and keeping Tunisia in with a chance.
However, his mistake for Senegal’s goal in extra time was as avoidable as it was costly. A routine cross into the Tunisia box from a Senegal free kick had Hassen racing off his line but instead of catching the ball or punching clear, he did a little of both but succeeded in neither.
Instead, he flapped the ball onto the head of the unfortunate Bronn, who could do nothing to get out of the way and now has to live with an Afcon semi-final own goal to his name.
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Winner – Aliou Cisse
Somehow, Senegal have never won an Africa Cup of Nations title. Ponder that for a moment.
That might all change now, though, as Aliou Cisse has masterminded the Lions of Teranga’s first march to an Afcon final since the great 2002 squad which contained El-Hadji Diouf and Co.
Senegal are in the final of #AFCON2019
Sadio Mane and co will face the winner of Algeria v Nigeria on Friday! ?? pic.twitter.com/XOxAugWpa0
— Eurosport UK (@Eurosport_UK) July 14, 2019
Their semi-final win wasn’t pretty by any means, and Senegal certainly rode their luck. But with Sadio Mane, Ismaila Sarr and Gueye among their ranks, the winners of Algeria vs Nigeria will certainly be up against it in the final.
It’s a bit of history for Cisse, who will definitely be looking to eclipse that on Friday.
Loser – Tunisia
Sure, Sassi should have done better with his penalty. And yes, Tunisia certainly had their chances to beat Senegal during normal time. But my word, that VAR call in the final few minutes of extra time will leave them feeling robbed.
If Koulibaly’s challenge was enough of a handball to warrant a penalty during normal time, Gueye’s handball late into extra time simply had to be, didn’t it?
As a Cheikhou Kouyate header bounced onto Gueye’s hand, the referee immediately pointed to the stop, only for the VAR operators to call him over for a second look.
On further inspection, it still looked like a penalty, but for some unbeknown reason, the official had a change of heart and chalked off his original decision.
What is VAR for, if not to make the right call and get justified decisions?