Algeria won the Africa Cup of Nations for only the second time in their history after an early fortuitous goal saw them beat Senegal 1-0 in Friday’s final in Cairo.
It took Algeria just two minutes to take the lead with a lucky deflection from Baghdad Bounedjah’s strike finding the back of the net.
Djamel Belmadi’s side then managed to hold off Senegal – looking to win the competition for the first time – for the remainder of the 90 minutes to add to their 1990 success on home soil.
Algeria took a remarkable early lead when Bounedjah ran in from the left and hit a shot which struck Salif Sane’s outstretched leg and looped high over goalkeeper Amigo Gomes before dropping into the goal.
A few minutes later, Bounedjah had another chance when Senegal captain Cheikhou Kouyate missed the ball but the forward was unable to capitalise on the mistake.
In an unsavoury moment which slightly marred the occasion, someone from the crowd directed a laser towards Senegal’s Henri Saivet as the midfielder attempted to take a free-kick
Saivet also had his side’s best chance of the first half in the 29th minute direct from a free-kick, but his 30-yard effort was an easy save for goalkeeper Rais M’Bolhi.
After dominating most of the possession in the opening period, Senegal came close to an equaliser after the ball fell to M’Baye Niang who turned and struck a shot towards the top corner from 30 yards out, but it went just wide.
In the second half, Liverpool star Sadio Mane had his first opportunity of the match and lost a boot in the process as he turned past a defender, but his shot was blocked.
In a clash of few clear-cut chances, Senegal looked to have been presented with a perfect chance to draw level in the 60th minute when they were awarded a penalty after a cross hit Adlene Guedioura’s arm which was by the midfielder’s side. However, the referee overturned the decision following a VAR review.
Algeria had their first good opening of the second half when Youcef Belaili’s cross was deflected and flew towards goal but the ball landed on the roof of the net.
Another chance for Senegal came in the 83rd minute, after a defended free-kick fell to Ismaila Sarr who let the ball bounce before firing a shot over the bar.
Substitute Krepin Diatta wasted one of his side’s last opportunities to equalise when he decided to shoot instead of crossing for the numbers in green gathered in the box, and his effort went high over the bar.
With 30 seconds of stoppage time remaining, Senegal’s Sane stood up to take a free-kick, but his effort went straight into the wall and Algeria’s celebrations were able to begin.
Riyad Mahrez curled in an injury-time free-kick to send Algeria through to the Africa Cup of Nations final in a 2-1 victory against Nigeria.
The game had looked to be heading to extra time as the two teams battled for the right to play Senegal in Friday’s showpiece, but Manchester City midfielder Mahrez won it for Algeria late on.
Les Fennecs went ahead courtesy of a first-half own goal by William Troost-Ekong, with the Udinese central defender turning a Mahrez cross into his own net.
Odion Ighalo equalised with a penalty for Nigeria, with the spot-kick awarded for handball after a VAR review.
An additional 30 minutes seemed likely but Mahrez settled the tie with what proved to be the last kick of the match, curling in a free-kick from just outside the area.
Algeria will play Senegal in the final after their 1-0 extra-time win against Tunisia earlier on Sunday.
Senegal coach Aliou Cisse insists reaching the Africa Cup of Nations semi-final stage for the first time in 17 years will act as the catalyst to beat Tunisia on Sunday and earn a place in the final.
Not since the 2002 final defeat to Cameroon have Senegal gone this far in the competition but they have a chance to return to the showpiece event.
They face the Eagles of Carthage in Cairo after Everton midfielder Idrissa Gueye’s goal was enough to see off Benin in the quarter-finals.
Now Cisse, who missed a penalty in the shootout loss back in 2002, wants his current crop to use the extended period out of the limelight as inspiration.
“Tunisia are very special and very strong,” he said at his pre-match press conference.
“They possess special skills and their players are capable of creating the difference. However we’re in the semi-finals for the first time since 2002 and this motivates us to win.
“We have improved a lot and I stand by my team.”
Tunisia, meanwhile, have also had to wait over a decade to return to the business end of the tournament.
Winners in 2004, they have not reached the last four since but their coach Alain Giresse believes his players can get the job done and qualify for July 19’s final.
“We are very confident and we will fight to beat Senegal,” he said.
“Reaching the semi-final is very special because Tunisia didn’t have this privilege for a long time.”