Saturday Jun 04, 2022. 23:19
Senegal got their qualification campaign for the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations off to a flying start, as they defeated Benin 3-1 in a Group L clash at the Diamniadio Olympic Stadium on Saturday night.
Star man Sadio Mane further underlined why he is a Ballon d’Or candidate in 2022, as he struck a hat-trick of goals to ensure the Teranga Lions shot to the top of the group standings, two points ahead of Rwanda and Mozambique (who drew 1-1 on Thursday).
Senegal claimed the lead as early as the 12th minute, with star attacker Sadio Mane firing home a penalty to put the hosts in charge. The spot kick was awarded for a handball against Benin defender David Kiki as he slid in and attempted to block a shot from Pape Sarr.
Mane doubled Senegal’s advantage 10 minutes later, bursting into the box to latch onto Nampalys Mendy’s teasing pass before seeing his low shot saved by Benin goalkeeper Saturnin Allagbe – the rebound came straight back to the Liverpool star, who calmly sent the ball into the back of the net at the second attempt.
Benin offered only a sporadic threat in attack, but they were close to pulling a goal back on 37 minutes when striker Steve Mounie got on the end of a cross from the right flank and powered a diving header on target, though the effort was straight at Senegal goalkeeper Edouard Mendy.
Mane almost completed a first-half hat-trick when he cut inside from the left and let fly with a shot in injury time before the break, but his effort clipped the top of the crossbar and left the score at 2-0 in favour of the Teranga Lions at half time.
The teams traded half-chances early in the second stanza, before Benin were reduced to 10 men when defender Sessi D’Almeida stumbled in a foot race with Mane and resorted to cynically hauling at the attacker down a few metres outside the penalty area, earning himself a straight red card.
Senegal then earned another penalty just before the hour mark when Ismaila Sarr looked to round Allagbe, but was brought down by the goalkeeper. Mane took on the spot kick and cracked a powerful shot into the corner to make it 3-0 and complete his hat-trick in the 60th minute.
With the three points assured, the Teranga Lions opted for a raft of changes in attack and midfield, and they somewhat lost their attacking rhythm.
Benin, even with 10 men, were able to take advantage and pull a goal back on 88 minutes when substitute Junior Olaitan run onto a fine through ball from midfield and struck a low shot home from the right of the penalty area.
The teams will return to Group L action in the coming midweek, with Senegal facing Rwanda in Dakar on Tuesday 7 June and Benin hosting Mozambique in Cotonou on Wednesday 8 June.
Senegal (2) 3 (Mane 12’ pen, 22’, 60’ pen)
Benin (0) 1 (Olaitan 88’)
Senegal: E. Mendy, Sabaly, Diallo, Koulibaly, Ciss (B. Toure 77’), P. Gueye (Kouyate 67’), N. Mendy (I. Gueye 76’), P. Sarr, I. Sarr, Mane (Balde 86’), Dia (Ndiaye 67’)
Benin: Allagbe, Verdon, Adenon, Kiki, Doremus (Assogba 74’), Ahlinvi (Bawa 64’), D’Almeida, Anaane (Segbe Azankpo 46’), Aiyegun, Dossou (Olaitan 64’), Mounie (Pote 74’)