A lone, freak goal was enough for Algeria to win the Africa Cup of Nations for the second time in their history, thanks to Baghdad Bounedjah’s early deflected goal two minutes in to the final game against Senegal.
Not to be outdone, the Lions of Teranga though left reeling with the freak shot didn’t easily give up with plenty of drama on the pitch ensuring an absolute thriller of a match for the fans.
For Senegal, who lost to Algeria by the same scoreline in the group stage in 1990, the long wait for a first continental crown goes on as coach Aliou Cisse, the captain of the 2002 runners-up, again fell short in the final.
It was the first title-decider to feature two African coaches since 1998, with Algeria boss Djamel Belmadi completing a whirlwind 12 months at the helm after inheriting a side that failed to make it out of the group stage two years ago.
With defensive rock Kalidou Koulibaly suspended for Senegal, Salif Sane deputised at the back and Ismaila Sarr was recalled in attack, while Belmadi kept faith in the same side that overcame Nigeria with an injury-time free-kick from Riyad Mahrez.
For the Algerian fans, it was the perfect ending to their AFCON campaign. The Algerian government had reportedly subsidized more than 5,000 plane tickets for Algeria supporters to make the four-hour flight to the Egyptian capital.
This final had been billed as Mané vs. Mahrez but so far the Premier League duo had been upstaged by their less illustrious teammates.
Algeria midfielder Ismael Bennacer was awarded the best player, while, Rais M’Bolhi was also named the tournament’s best keeper.
Meanwhile, Nigeria striker Odion Ighalo won the Golden Boot award with a tally of 5 goals. He beat off competition from Sadio Mane of Senegal, Riyad Mahrez and Adam Ounas of Algeria and Cedric Bakambu of DR Congo, who scored two goals each.
It is the best tally for a Nations Cup top scorer since Egyptian striker Mohamed “Gedo” Nagy scored five goals in 2010.