Defending champions Senegal booked their spot in the knockout stages of the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations as they beat Cameroon 3-1 in the Group B match at Charles Konan Banny de Yamoussoukro on Friday.
Former Watford striker Ismaila Sarr saw his turn take a huge deflection and beat Andre Onana in goals in the first half.
Sarr, who now plays for Marseille in France, having seen his shot deflected, this time released Habin Diallo in the second half, with Al Shabab striker slotting in, in the second half.
But Jean-Charles Castelletto pulled one back for Cameroon later in the game after he was left unmarked from the short corner.
Sadio Mane scored the third to make it 3-1 in referee’s optional time in the 95 minutes.
Senegal, who is favourite to reach the final for the third time on the trot, were not trouble until Castelletto’s goal and it was clear the Indomitable Lions were lacking a present upfront to trouble defenders – Kalidou Koulibaly and Abdou Diallo.
Cameroon were without Vincent Aboubakar, who was the top scorer in the 2021 edition on home soil.
The big news for Cameroon was the inclusion of Andre Onana given the starting berth by coach Rigobert Song, having arrived late in the camp on the private jet and missed Cameroon’s 1-1 draw against Guinea on Monday.
He had played for his club Manchester United when they drew with Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday.
The meeting of these two was a repeat of the 2002 AFCON final where Samuel Eto’o’s Cameroon won on penalty shootouts in Mali.
Song was part of that side while Senegal coach Aliou Cisse was on the losing side of Teranga Lions on that occasion, 3-2.
These two sides also met recently in 2017 in the Gabon edition, with Hugo Broos’ Indomitable Lions winning again on penalties in the quarter-finals before beating Egypt in the final.
Just like it was on Thursday when top dogs such as Cote d’Ivoire and Nigeria met in a powerful Group A match, another big two nations on the African continent slugged out for supremacy.
But Senegal were the first on the money. They fortuitously went ahead when Sarr’s shot on the turn took a huge deflection off Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa and beat Onana in the 16th minute.
Sarr, having seen his shot deflected for the first goal, set up Diallo, and the Al Shabab attacker slid in to score the second for Teranga Lions in the 71st minute.
But Cameroon came back strong late in the game and pull one back as Castelletto rose highest to meet Oliver Ntcham’s short corner.
Kevin Nkoudou almost equalised for Cameroon, stretching to meet the cross but he was a little late. He then missed a sitter in the referee’s optional time when Castelletto delivered a perfect cross and headed it wide when the goal was gaping in front of him.
But Mane, having seen Cameroon’s profligacy in front of the goals, punished them when he guided the third to beat Onana with pure precision from the brilliant pullback of Gana Gueye.