Idrissa Gueye fires Senegal to semi-finals
Africa Cup of Nations, quarter-final – Senegal 1 (Gueye 70) Benin 0 (Verdon, red card, 82)
Gueye combined with Liverpool talisman Sadio Mane on 70 minutes to fashion some space inside the box before sending an effort past Saturnin Allagbe, which represented just reward for a much-improved second-half performance from Aliou Cisse’s side.
As expected, Senegal dominated the first-half but too often their final ball lacked quality and they failed to register a single shot on target before the interval.
The better chances of the opening 45 minutes actually fell to Benin, who, despite playing with little intent, almost opened the scoring with an improvised deft flick from Michael Pote that was inches wide from creeping in at the far post.
After the restart, Huddersfield forward Steve Mounie and then Pote spurned a wonderful chance, while Senegal goalkeeper Alfred Gomis almost scored a comical own-goal.
Senegal finally sprung into life and Mane thought he had broken the deadlock but was adjudged to be just offside before Gueye fired in the opener.
Mane had a second effort ruled out for offside after a VAR check and Benin’s hopes of sending the fixture to extra-time were then dealt a fatal blow when Olivier Verdon was dismissed for a professional foul as Gueye bore down on goal.
Senegal will now play either the uninspiring Tunisia or debutants Madagascar for a place in the showpiece final.
TALKING POINT - Is this finally Senegal's year?
It is remarkable that Senegal, a formidable force in the continent over the years, have never won the Africa Cup of Nations - but will this finally be their year? With reigning champions Cameroon eliminated, along with favourites Morocco and hosts Egypt, their path to the final is much more straight forward than it could have been. Indeed, the Lions of Teranga have been placed in the favourable side of the draw and you have to fancy their chances in the semi-final. It has been a tournament filled with drama and shocks - and Algeria will take some stopping - but Senegal seem to have real belief and determination this time around.
MAN OF THE MATCH - Idrissa Gueye (Senegal)
The Everton midfielder steals the headlines from Mane, his friend at Liverpool. The pair have been putting their club rivalry to one side in Egypt to combine with lethal effect. The 29-year-old was a real positive force in midfield in the second-half, making runs from deep and winning the game for his nation with a well-taken goal.
26' - Pote goes agonisingly close! The free-kick delivery is miscued but it's genius improvisation from the Benin midfielder to adjust his feet and flick the ball goalwards. It just drifts agonisingly wide!
48' - Benin spurn a great chance! An inviting cross comes in from the right, Mounie completely misses it, it comes through to Pote who mishits the shot and Gomis is left with a simple save. That should have been the breakthrough!
53' - Mane's goal chalked off! Much better free-kick delivery from Saivet, it's flicked on by Koulibaly and Mane gets the final touch as the ball nestles in the bottom corner. However, it won't count - Mane was in an offside position.
66' - Close to a calamity! What is the goalkeeper doing? Under no pressure, Gomis miscues his kick and the ball almost ends up in the back of his net! What a remarkable way that would have been to exit the tournament.
70' - GOAL! Senegal 1-0 Benin: Everton midfielder Idrissa Gueye with the breakthrough! And it's a lovely goal. It's a thing of Merseyside genius as Mane holds the ball up and then plays through his team mate with a beautifully-weighed pass who finishes with aplomb.
73' - Mane's goal is ruled out, again! Oooh, this is so close. Mane finishes another lovely move but is ruled offside by centimetres...but this going to VAR! This is a huge call... and it's NOT going to be given. Mane looked level but the replays, obviously, showed otherwise.
83' - RED CARD! Gueye is through on goal! But he's brought down by Verdon on the edge of the box. Is it going to be a red card? He was the last man... It's red! Verdon is sent off and he can have no complaints. It's gone from bad to worse for Benin.