AFCON defending champions Senegal knocked out by hosts on penalties

Defending champions beaten by hosts Ivory Coast as Franck Kessie scores winning penalty to seal quarter-final spot.

The Teranga Lions of Senegal have crashed out of the African Cup of Nations after losing 5-4 on penalties to hosts, Ivory Coast.

Regulation time and extra time ended 1-1 but Moussa Niakhate crashed his kick against the post as the Ivorians, who got to this stage as the fourth of the third-best teams in the group stage, won in dramatic fashion.

Franck Kessie was the Ivory Coast’s hero from the bench as his composure from the penalty spot saw the Africa Cup of Nations hosts beat reigning champions Senegal 5-4 in a shoot-out in Monday’s night last-16 tie.

Having been left on the bench by interim coach Emerse Fae, who replaced the sacked Jean-Louis Gasset, the former Barcelona midfielder forced extra time with a coolly taken penalty in the 86th minute, cancelling out Habib Diallo’s four-minute opener.

Fae made five changes to the team that kicked off against Equatorial Guinea, promoting Serge Aurier, Odilon Kossounou, Jean Michael Seri, Max-Alain Gradel, and Jean-Philippe Krasso to the starting lineup. 

The West African showdown pitted the most and least impressive of the 16 qualifiers from the group stage against each other, with Senegal, who comfortably beat the Gambia, Cameroon, and Guinea to top Group D and were the only section winners to progress having secured a maximum of nine points.

Ivory Coast on the other hand,  managed only three points after also losing to Nigeria and had a minus-three goal difference but still squeezed through as the last of the four best third-placed countries.

Despite defeating Guinea 2-0 in their last group game, Senegal changed three of that starting line-up with Moussa Niakhate, Abdou Diallo, and Lamine Camara coming in.

The last thing mentally brittle Ivory Coast wanted to happen was conceding an early goal, but within four minutes they were a goal behind as Habib Diallo scored his second of this AFCON.

Showing a huge improvement from their last match, the Ivorians gradually took control only to be thwarted by opponents who pulled all 10 outfield players back when under pressure.

The hosts managed to steady the ship, but it was when Fae turned to his bench midway through the second half, introducing Pepe and Kessie, that momentum swung in the Ivory Coast’s favour.

Kessie’s first involvement was to force Edouard Mendy into a fine double save. The Ivory Coast had to ride their luck at the other end, though, with Mane blazing wide with half of the goal gaping. 

But they made that good fortune count. Sebastian Haller’s fantastic pass played in Pepe, who drew a rash tackle from Mendy and, following the VAR check, Kessie calmly dispatched his spot-kick.

Yahia Fofana came up big to deny Mane during extra time, paving the way for the shoot-out, in which Senegal blinked first – Niakhate’s effort clipping the left-hand post.

With the weight of his nation on his shoulders for the second time, Kessie again made no mistake, teeing up a quarter-final against either Mali or Burkina Faso.

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