Early Goal Is All Algeria Needs to Capture Africa Cup of Nations

CAIRO — Algeria won the Africa Cup of Nations for the first time in nearly three decades on Friday, beating Senegal, 1-0, in the final with a deflected goal in the opening seconds by striker Baghdad Bounedjah.

Bounedjah’s shot on Algeria’s first attack deflected off Senegal defender Salif Sané and looped over goalkeeper Alfred Gomis at Cairo International Stadium.

The goal was timed at 79 seconds — the fastest in a Cup of Nations final for at least 39 years — and delivered Algeria just a second African title and first since 1990.

Algeria players sprinted the length of the field and jumped over advertising boards to celebrate with their fans at the final whistle. Some players climbed the fences, fists pumping as the raucous Algeria fans surged toward them.

Algeria last made the final 29 years ago, when it won its sole title before Friday.

“My people have waited a long time,” said Algeria Coach Djamel Belmadi, a former Algeria player. “I’m very happy, even if it is difficult to express. I’m tired, it’s true, and it is difficult to show my emotions, but when I rest my happiness will appear.”

Senegal and Sadio Mané trudged off the field at the 75,000-seat stadium disappointed again.

Mané, socks down around his ankles, managed to wave to a group of supporters who cheered for him as he left.

Senegal has never won the cup, and Senegal Coach Aliou Cissé had another bitter pill to swallow after missing the penalty that cost Senegal the cup in a shootout in its only previous appearance in the final in 2002.

“This is a different generation, and Algeria won,” Cissé said. “They seized an opportunity, and they scored.”

Senegal’s desperate disappointment was exacerbated when it was awarded a penalty in the second half and then had it taken away following a review by the video assistant referee.

Alioum Alioum, a Cameroonian referee, penalized Algeria’s Adlane Guedioura for a hand ball but changed his decision after consulting V.A.R., which was being used at the Cup of Nations for the first time.

Still, Algeria was probably a fitting champion in Egypt, having won every game, including a 1-0 win over Senegal in the group stage.

Algeria was captained by Riyad Mahrez, who added a Cup of Nations title to his English Premier League title with Manchester City.

He lifted the trophy in front of the president of the African soccer confederation and FIFA President Gianni Infantino as fireworks and golden glitter exploded into the air behind him.

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