Algeria beats Nigeria, sets up final match with Senegal in African Cup

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Algeria supporters celebrate on the Champs-Elysee avenue in Paris on July 14, 2019 after Algeria defeated Nigeria in the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations semi-final football match in Cairo. (AFP / Zakaria Abdelkaf)
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People celebrate on the Grande Poste place in Algiers after Algeria beat Nigeria in the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations semi-final football match in Cairo on July 14, 2019. (AFP / RYAD KRAMDI)
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Algerian players celebrate after scoring their second goal in the Africa Cup of Nations 2019 semifinal match between Algeria and Nigeria in Cairo. (REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh)
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Algeria's forward Riyad Mahrez (R) scores a free-kick during the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations semi-final football match between Algeria and Nigeria at the Cairo International stadium in Cairo on July 14, 2019. (AFP / JAVIER SORIANO)
Updated 15 July 2019

Algeria beats Nigeria, sets up final match with Senegal in African Cup

  • Algeria will play for a second African title and first in nearly 30 years in Friday’s final
  • Senegal goes for its first African Cup title after 54 years of trying

CAIRO: Riyad Mahrez scored from a free kick in the fifth minute of injury time as Algeria beat Nigeria 2-1 on Sunday and progressed to the African Cup of Nations final against Sadio Mane’s Senegal.
Mahrez thundered his left-footed match-winner into the net in effectively the last kick of the game to stunningly settle the semifinal at Cairo International Stadium.
Algeria will play for a second African title and first in nearly 30 years in Friday’s final. Senegal goes for its first African Cup title after 54 years of trying.
The teams met in the group stage at this tournament when Algeria won 1-0.
The final will also feature an intriguing Premier League subplot as Manchester City’s Mahrez comes up against Liverpool’s Mane.
Senegal went through after beating Tunisia 1-0 in an extra-time thriller at the 30 June Stadium across Cairo.
Both semifinals had dramatic VAR moments, with the referee video review system being used for the first time at the African Cup this year. The referees made good use of it in the semis, with two drawn-out decisions.
Algeria led Nigeria through a first-half own-goal by William Troost-Ekong. Mahrez’s cross deflected off another Nigerian defender, then hit Troost-Ekong in the midriff and went in.
Algeria was pegged back when Nigeria was given a penalty for handball after a long VAR referral by Gambian referee Bakary Gassama, who initially didn’t award the spot-kick. A shot by Oghenekaro Etebo hit his own teammate Odion Ighalo and the arm of Algeria defender Aissa Mandi at just about the same time. Gassama didn’t give it at first, then referred to the TV screen on the sidelines more than a minute later and went back for the penalty.
Nigeria took its opportunity — contentious as it was — to level at 1-1 from the spot through Ighalo.
But Algeria captain Mahrez won it at the very death, hammering his free kick into the net and sprinting half the length of the field to celebrate with teammates on the bench.
“This free kick arrived and, with the quality of a player like Mahrez, it’s a massive chance at a goal,” Algeria coach Djamel Belmadi said. “Thank God we made it.”
There were tense moments off the field at Cairo International also as Algerian fans and local Egyptian spectators began throwing plastic bottles at each other over a fence that separated them. Some of the Egyptians had started to cheer for Nigeria over Egypt’s North African rivals.
Lines of yellow vested security personnel were brought into the stands to stand between the supporters.
Senegal won the first semifinal with an own-goal in the 100th minute when Tunisia goalkeeper Mouez Hassen pushed a free kick onto the head of defender Dylan Bronn and the ball bounced back into the goal.
It was another game of high drama.
On a day when the sports world was treated to epic contests at the Wimbledon men’s tennis final and the Cricket World Cup final, the African Cup held up its end of the bargain.
Senegal and Tunisia both missed penalties within a few minutes of each other in regulation time.
Tunisia was then given another penalty late in extra time only for referee Bamlak Tessema Weyesa to check the VAR TV screen on the sidelines and dramatically reverse his decision — to the dismay of the Tunisians.
Tunisia should have gone ahead after winning the first penalty in the 73rd, when Ferjani Sassi’s shot hit the upper arm of Senegal defender Kalidou Koulibaly as he threw himself in the way to block it.
Sassi took the penalty himself but Senegal goalkeeper Alfred Gomis saved easily.
Senegal had its chance almost straight after, with Ismaila Sarr hacked down in the area.
Henri Saivet took the spot-kick instead of Mane, who missed two penalties earlier in the tournament. His penalty was low and hard to the bottom right corner, but Hassen dived full-stretch and brilliantly deflected it away with his left hand.
Hassen was responsible for deciding Tunisia’s fate, though.
In extra time, he went to punch away a free kick but only forced it onto Bronn’s head and it rebounded into the net.
The most contentious moment came right near the end after Senegal’s Idrissa Gueye was initially penalized for another handball in the area. The ball was headed down by a teammate and struck Gueye’s hand as he tried to pull it away at the side of his body.
Ethiopian referee Weyesa awarded the penalty, then decided to make the long run over to the sidelines to check with the VAR.
After another long delay, he ran back onto the field waving his arms to signal no penalty.
Senegal has made it to just one final before, in 2002. Current Senegal coach Aliou Cisse was a member of that 2002 team and he dropped to his knees with arms held aloft in celebration at the final whistle.


Saudi desert gears up for first Dakar rally in Asia

Updated 13 December 2019

Saudi desert gears up for first Dakar rally in Asia

  • Taking place from January 5 to 17, the 7500-kilometer adventure will be hosted in Asia for the first time
  • The race will start in Jeddah and will end in Qiddiya, Riyadh

RIYADH: There are only three weeks to go until Dakar Saudi Arabia 2020 starts in Jeddah.

It will be the first time this adventurous race comes to Asia, where Saudi Arabia’s desert will play host to the 7,500-km-long rally over 13 days of action and 12 stages of challenging navigation.

Taking place from Jan. 5-17, the first edition of the rally will see more than 550 drivers from 62 nations explore the vast and formidable desert terrains of the Kingdom.

“We were really excited by the beautiful landscape. The deserts were exactly what we expected with their dunes, nice mountains and small canyons. We have some stages along the sea also, so it will be a mixed landscape, which is very interesting,” 13-time Dakar Rally winner Stéphane Peterhansel said.

FASTFACT

Taking place from Jan. 5-17, the first edition of the rally will see more than 550 drivers from 62 nations explore the vast and formidable desert terrains of the Kingdom.

More than 550 drivers from 62 countries will participate in the 12-stage race, which runs from Jan. 5-17. 

“Saudi Arabia is a big country, so there are a lot of possibilities. It has many deserts, which makes it the perfect place to organize Dakar,” the French driver added.

Dakar Saudi Arabia 2020 gets underway in Jeddah before drivers and crews navigate their way through the winding dunes for 752 km.

The challenge will continue up north along the coast for nearly 900 km through the Red Sea Project until the futuristic megacity of Neom, where the journey will reach its highest point at an altitude of 1,400 meters amid a series of canyons and mountains.

A combination of sandy stretches and gravel await Dakar’s thrill-seeking competitors as they cruise through the next 676 km from Neom to AlUla in Dakar’s fourth stage, before the sandy hills of Hail put the navigation skills of competitors to the test as they descend south onto Riyadh.

A rest day in the capital will be followed by Dakar Saudi Arabia’s longest stage — 741 km — as the route takes a turn west to the center of the Kingdom’s enormous desert.

The race will take place from January 5 to 17. (Supplied)

The course will then loop back toward Haradh in the eastern governorate of Al-Ahsa, marking the entrance to the Empty Quarter and building up to the grand finale in the future entertainment, sports and cultural destination of Qiddiya, where the winner will be crowned on the final podium.

“Saudi Arabia is a very big country, and you can find almost every type of terrain in it,” Saudi driver Yazeed Al-Rajhi said.

Spanish rally driver Carlos Sainz added: “I think everyone finds it very exciting. It seems to be really what Dakar needs, and we are hoping to enjoy it and have a good race.”

The Saudi Federation of Automobiles and Motorcycles officially confirmed route details of the rally at an international press conference in Paris. 

Dakar Saudi Arabia 2020 will see pilots drive specially modified vehicles, trucks, quads, SxS (four-wheel drive, off-road vehicles) and motorbikes, designed to handle the 12 stages of the varied, challenging terrains.