The Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) is always full of surprises, drama, and excitement. But few matches can match the intensity and emotion of the last-16 clash between hosts Ivory Coast and defending champions Senegal on Monday night.
The match had everything: goals, saves, misses, penalties, and a dramatic twist at the end. It was a roller coaster ride for both teams and their fans, who witnessed one of the most memorable games in AFCON history.
Here’s how it all unfolded, and what it means for the rest of the tournament.
The first half: Senegal strike early
Senegal came into the match as the favorites, having won all three of their group games and scoring eight goals in the process. They had a formidable attack led by Liverpool star Sadio Mane, who had scored four goals in the tournament so far.
Ivory Coast, on the other hand, had barely qualified for the knockout stage, finishing third in their group with only one win and two losses. They had scored only two goals and conceded five, and had sacked their coach Jean-Louis Gasset after the group stage.
But the hosts were not ready to give up without a fight. They had the home advantage, playing in front of a packed crowd at the Stade Charles Konan Banny in Yamoussoukro. They also had some experienced players in their squad, such as AC Milan midfielder Franck Kessie and Crystal Palace winger Wilfried Zaha.
The match started with a bang, as Senegal took the lead in the fourth minute. Mane, who had been quiet in the previous match against Cameroon, showed his class with a brilliant cross from the left wing, finding Habib Diallo in the box. The Strasbourg striker made no mistake, heading the ball past the Ivory Coast goalkeeper Sylvain Gbohouo.
It was a dream start for the Lions of Teranga, who looked confident and composed. They dominated the possession and created more chances, while Ivory Coast struggled to cope with their pace and power.
The hosts had a few opportunities to equalize, but they were either off target or denied by the Senegal goalkeeper Edouard Mendy, who made some crucial saves. The Chelsea keeper, who had kept three clean sheets in the group stage, was in fine form again.
The first half ended with Senegal leading 1-0, and looking comfortable.
The second half: Ivory Coast fight back
The second half was a different story, as Ivory Coast came out with more urgency and aggression. They pressed Senegal higher up the pitch, and forced them into mistakes. They also created more chances, with Zaha and Kessie leading the charge.
Senegal had a golden opportunity to double their lead in the 82nd minute, when they were awarded a penalty after a foul by Ivory Coast defender Eric Bailly on Mane. It was a controversial decision, as the Manchester United defender seemed to have won the ball cleanly.
But justice was served, as Mane’s spot kick was saved by Gbohouo, who dived to his right and pushed the ball away. It was a huge moment for the hosts, who were still alive in the game.
Four minutes later, Ivory Coast got their reward, as they were awarded a penalty of their own. Mendy, who had been flawless until then, brought down Zaha in the box, after the winger had dribbled past two defenders. It was a clear foul, and the referee pointed to the spot.
Kessie, who had been the best player for Ivory Coast, stepped up to take the penalty. He showed great composure, as he calmly slotted the ball past Mendy, sending him the wrong way.
It was a dramatic equalizer, and it sent the home crowd into a frenzy. Ivory Coast had leveled the score at 1-1, and forced the game into extra time.
Extra time: No goals, but plenty of drama
The extra time was tense and tight, as both teams were cautious and tired. Neither side wanted to make a mistake, or concede a goal. There were few clear chances, and the ones that came were wasted.
The best chance fell to Senegal in the 113th minute, when Mane had a free header in the box, but he sent it wide of the post. It was a rare miss for the Liverpool star, who had scored 11 goals in his last 12 AFCON games.
Ivory Coast had a couple of shots from distance, but they were either blocked or saved by Mendy. The hosts also had to deal with some injuries, as Zaha and Bailly had to be substituted.
The extra time ended with the score still 1-1, and the match went to penalties.
Penalties: Ivory Coast prevail in the shootout
The penalty shootout was a nerve-wracking affair, as both teams had to deal with the pressure and the stakes. The first four penalties were all scored, as Mane, Diallo, Kessie, and Maxwel Cornet converted for their respective teams.
The fifth penalty was the decisive one, as Senegal defender Moussa Niakhate missed his spot kick, hitting the post. It was a costly miss, as it gave Ivory Coast the chance to win the shootout.
Kessie, who had already scored in the regular time and in the shootout, stepped up again to take the final penalty. He showed no signs of fatigue or fear, as he calmly scored his third goal of the night, sending Mendy the wrong way again.
It was a stunning finish, and it sparked wild celebrations among the Ivory Coast players and fans. They had beaten the defending champions, and reached the quarter-finals of the AFCON.
Senegal, on the other hand, were left heartbroken and devastated. They had failed to defend their title, and to end their long wait for their first AFCON trophy.
What’s next: Quarter-finals and beyond
Ivory Coast will face either Mali or Burkina Faso in the quarter-finals on Saturday, January 29. They will be hoping to continue their momentum, and to reach their fourth AFCON final in the last seven editions.
Senegal will have to go back to the drawing board, and to prepare for the World Cup qualifiers later this year. They will be aiming to qualify for their second consecutive World Cup, and to make up for their AFCON disappointment.
FAQs: Frequently asked questions
Here are some of the most common questions about the AFCON match between Ivory Coast and Senegal:
Q: Who scored the goals for Ivory Coast and Senegal?
A: Habib Diallo scored the only goal for Senegal in the fourth minute, while Franck Kessie scored the equalizer for Ivory Coast in the 86th minute from a penalty.
Q: Who missed the penalties in the shootout?
A: Moussa Niakhate missed the fifth penalty for Senegal, hitting the post. Franck Kessie scored the winning penalty for Ivory Coast.
Q: Who was the man of the match?
A: Franck Kessie was the man of the match, scoring three goals (one in regular time and two in the shootout) and leading his team to victory.
Q: Who are the other teams in the quarter-finals?
A: The other teams in the quarter-finals are Angola, Cape Verde, Egypt, Ghana, Morocco, Nigeria, and either Mali or Burkina Faso.
Q: When and where is the AFCON final?
A: The AFCON final will be played on Sunday, February 6, at the Stade Felix Houphouet-Boigny in Abidjan, the capital of Ivory Coast.