Senegal beat Egypt 4-2 on penalties after a hard-fought 0-0 draw to seal their first-ever Africa Cup of Nations.
It was billed as a big clash between Sadio Mané and Mohamed Salah and in the end, Mané took the headlines but the secret power behind the throne of King Sadio was his goalkeeper, Edouard Mendy.
After all, the whole reason Sadio Mané was able to step-up and take his redemptive kill-shot was that Edouard Mendy had just saved Mohanad Lasheen’s penalty. A huge save that put Senegal on the verge of victory.
And it wasn’t his only save of the night. Mendy wasn’t called upon as much as Gabaski was; with the Egyptian having to make seven saves. But each one of the three saves Mendy made were absolutely massive.
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His two saves from Mohamed Salah were loaded with all the Liverpool-Chelsea narrative as well as the split in the African continent and the history of Senegalese underachievement in finals against the Egyptian dominance.
But it was his final save from Marwan Hamdy, the sub who had missed a great chance when he headed wide on 75 minutes came back in extra-time with an absolute rocket. This thing was hit so brutally that had it gone either side then Mendy wouldn’t have had a chance.
Even though it was high and straight, this was no easy save, but Mendy made it. Because that’s just what Mendy does. Make big saves when his club or country need them. As Lasheen found out to his expense in the shootout.
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The tournament win was huge for everyone but doubly so for Mendy, who now holds the Champions League and Cup of Nations simultaneously. A champion of Europe and Africa who achieved those great glories in phenomenal fashion.
In the knockout rounds of the Champions League, Mendy played six games and conceded just one goal, keeping five clean sheets including in the final against Manchester City. He also won the UEFA Super Cup, although he was subbed off for the shoot-out. For these performances, he was voted 2021 Champions League goalkeeper of the year and FIFA’s The Best Goalkeeper for 2021 as well.
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) February 6, 2022
Now we come into 2022 and he ran through the five (of seven) games of the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations and conceded just one goal all tournament long. Jannick Buyla’s goal for Equatorial Guinea was the only time Mendy’s goal was breached by an opponent. Otherwise he kept four clean sheets and was voted as Goalkeeper of the tournament.
And when it went to a shoot-out this time, there was no Kepa Arrizabalaga to call on as there had been in the Super Cup. Yet Mendy proved that he never needed him, standing tall and stopping Mohanad Lasheen and giving Senegal the perfect platform upon which to make history.
To make matters even more ridiculous, Mendy could add two more trophies to his collection over the following weeks as Chelsea play in the Club World Cup and EFL Cup final. Should Mendy play in either of those finals, you imagine he’d keep a clean sheet (it’s just what he does) and if he keeps a clean sheet, his team have a great chance to win.
And hey, if it goes all the way to penalties? Well the Africa Cup of Nations final proved he’s got that too!