By Damola Emmanuel
The encounter may go down in Africa’s soccer history as the most scrappy and tempestuous final of all Africa Nations Cup finals.
But a seemingly not-too-dangerous loop in the second minute of the explosive encounter at the Cairo Stadium in Egypt was all Algeria needed to end their 29-year-drought of Africa Cup of Nations Cup glory.
Friday’s 1-0 defeat of Senegal was Algeria’s second cup glory at the competition which debuted in 1957, having been sanctioned by the Confederation of Africa Football, CAF. Since1968, the competition has been held biennially.
The North Africans first won it in 1990, as hosts, when they beat Nigeria 1-0, on March 16, 1990, at the Stade 5 Juillet 1962 in Algiers. Chérif Oudjani scored the lone goal in the 38th minute to give his country his first win at the competition.
History repeated itself Friday night as restless forward, Baghdad Bounedjah, surged like a storm in the second minute of the nerve wrecking cracker, releasing a shot that took a wicked deflection off Senegal’s Salif Sane and looped into the net, past a flat-footed goalkeeper Alfred Gomis.
Algeria fought the battle of their life to sustain and maintain that slim margin that determined the winner of AFCON 2019.
The precedent for Friday’s bone-crushing encounter had actually been set three weeks ago in the Group Stage when the two sides met and Algeria carried the day with a a second-half Youcef Belaili goal.
It was the North Africans’ way of announcing their mission in the competition. And many football buffs took notice.
The Djamel Belmadi’s side got a sensational last-gasp Riyad Mahrez winner to beat Nigeria in the semi-final. But it was a scrappy early strike that decided Friday’s final as Baghdad Bounedjah reaped from a huge deflection to give Algeria their second cup glory in the Africa Cup of Nations.