Sports Desk, Feb 2 (EFE).- Senegal are headed to the final of the Africa Cup of Nations for the third time after beating Burkina Faso 3-1 Wednesday in a contest where all of the scoring came in the final 20 minutes of regulation.
Though both teams in the semifinal in Yaounde, capital of host nation Cameroon, are without a trophy, they followed very different trajectories.
Senegal, led on the attack by Liverpool standout Sadio Mane and anchored at the back by Chelsea goalkeeper Benjamin Mendy, were among the pre-tournament favorites, while Burkina Faso reached the last four via upset victories over Gabon and Tunisia.
And the Burkinabe had to face Senegal’s best 11 without the man who scored the match-winner against Tunisia, Dango Ouattara, who picked up a red card in the final minutes of the quarterfinal.
But the underdogs were tough on defense and more than 20 minutes passed before Senegal mounted a series threat on their opponents’ goal.
As the match clock approached the half-hour mark, Cheikhou Kouyate and Burkinabe keeper Herve Koffi both went down after a collision.
Referee Joshua Bondo initially awarded a penalty to Senegal, only to reverse the decision after consulting VAR. In the meantime, Koffi had to be stretchered off.
Mendy made a stop to deny Burkina Faso’s Hassane Bande in the 39th minute and Senegal were poised to take the lead when Bondo pointed to the spot deep into first half stoppage time after Idrissa Gueye’s shot struck Edmond Tapsoba on the arm.
Again, VAR intervened and the penalty was withdrawn.
Instead of officiating controversies, the second half brought goals. Senegal’s Abdou Diallo pounced on a loose ball in the area and broke the 0-0 deadlock in the 70th minute.
Gueye doubled the lead six minutes later, but Ibrahim Blati Toure halved the deficit with an impressive goal in the 82nd minute, only to see Mane make it 3-1 in the 87th and that’s how it ended.
Five-time cup winners Cameroon will battle Egypt on Thursday in the second semifinal. EFE jjl/dr