Mane fails to fire Senegal in AfCoN draw

Pre-tournament favorites Senegal failed to impress again as they were held 0-0 by Guinea in the Africa Cup of Nations, but the result all but ensures progress for the two teams to the round of 16.

Senegal, badly hit by COVID-19 infections, share first place in Group B with four points with West African rivals Guinea after the two sides won their respective opening matches on Monday.

With the top two from each group, plus the four best third-placed, four points should be enough for a place in the last 16.

Senegal, however, have done little to live up to their tag as the team to beat at the tournament as they feel the impact of 10 absentees.

Senegal captain Sadio Mane had a free-kick chance from close range early in Friday’s game at Kouekong Stadium in Bafoussam but hit the wall with his effort.

He was largely overshadowed in the first half by Liverpool team-mate Naby Keita, who led his Guinea side forward on frequent occasions with probing runs at the opposition defence.

It was Keita’s smart ball that split the Senegalese defense and released two Guinean attackers on goal. However Ilaix Moriba saw his initial effort saved by Seny Dieng then Morgan Guilavogui missed the rebound.

Senegal were a much improved side after the break and Bouna Sarr’s sought-after free-kick in the 52nd minute was close to scoring the opening goal, needing only a touch to guide it.

Four minutes later, centre-back Abdou Diallo headed just over the crossbar from a free-kick and in the 67th minute Mane’s run directly into the middle of the center circle gave Sarr a golden chance but he snatched the ball away.

The 10 missing Senegalese players, all absent due to COVID-19 infections, included captain Kalidou Koulibaly and first-choice goalkeeper Edouard Mendy.

Other absentees were Idrissa Gana Gueye and Fode Ballo Toure, who tested positive after the narrow 1-0 win over Zimbabwe in their opening game.

“It was very difficult for us with all these missing players,” said Senegalese coach Aliou Cissé.

Guinea also had four players missing, who were in quarantine after testing positive.

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