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Mahrez magic sends Algeria into final

Pin Mahrez's stunning free-kick sent Algeria through to the final. AFP
Mahrez's stunning free-kick sent Algeria through to the final. AFP

Mahrez magic sends Algeria into final

Tom Cunild by Tom Cunild @besoccer_es - 0 9,195

Riyad Mahrez scored a stunning free-kick right at the death to secure a 2-1 win for Algeria over Nigeria and set up an Africa Cup of Nations final against Senegal.

The Manchester City winger stepped up and scored the winner with the last kick of the game to give Algeria the chance to take home their first Africa Cup of Nations title since 1990. His sensational free-kick from the edge of the area flew across goal and past the diving Daniel Akpeyi into the top-left corner to break the deadlock in what had been a drab second half, and sent the pocket of Algeria fans in the Cairo International Stadium, as well as the million watching back home, into raptures.

The first half was a much livelier affair than the second, with Algeria spurning several good opportunities to take the lead before Nigeria kindly handed it to them. Baghdad Bounedjah, who scored a record 39 league goals for Qatari side Al Sadd last season, couldn't replicate his club form on the international stage as he missed two gilt-edged chances - the first being practically an open goal before he also scuffed a one-on-one straight at Akpeyi.

Algeria eventually made the breakthrough five minutes before half-time, although there was a rather sizeable chunk of fortune attached to their opener. Mahrez blew past Jamilu Collins on the right wing with a couple of breezy stepovers and fired a ball across goal that flicked off the recovering Collins and deflected off of William Troost-Ekong's midriff and into the net. After scoring Nigeria's late winner against South Africa in the quarter-finals, the defender quickly turned from hero to villain as he gave Algeria a lead at the break.

Very little of note happened in what was a cagey second half until Nigeria were awarded a penalty in the 70th minute. Oghenekaro Etebo's shot from distance hit the arm of Aïssa Mandi, who himself was left unsighted by a ducking Odion Ighalo, and after a lengthy VAR review, the referee pointed to the spot.

Ighalo stepped up to coolly slot into the bottom right corner and give Nigeria a precious equaliser, though they would create next to nothing in what left of the match as we seemed to be limping towards extra-time in Cairo.

Algeria so nearly won the game moments before Mahrez's free-kick as Ismaël Bennacer crashed a powerful left-footed effort from outside the area onto the bar, but it was the former PFA Player of the Year who stepped up deep into injury time with a moment of pure genius to break Nigeria hearts and set up a final with Sadio Mané and Senegal on Friday.

 

 

Tom Cunild

Tom Cunild

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