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Tuesday, 23 January 2024 21:47

AFCON holders win Group C and qualifies for Round of 16.

By Eshlin Vedan.

Defending champions Senegal secured top spot in Group C at the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations after beating Guinea 2-0 in an ill-tempered encounter.

Abdoulaye Seck headed the Teranga Lions in front from a free-kick and Iliman Ndiaye sealed victory with a fine low finish in the final minute.

Guinea knew they would go through before kick-off and finished third after Cameroon beat The Gambia 3-2.

Senegal progress from the group stage as the only side with a 100% record.

Aliou Cisse's side will stay in Yamoussoukro and face a third-placed side from Group A or F in the last 16 on Monday, while Guinea will play Group A winners Equatorial Guinea on Sunday in Abidjan.

Results on Monday meant Guinea were guaranteed to go through as one of four best third-placed sides at the very least, and boss Kaba Diawara made several changes to rest players for the knockout stages.

Both sides were fired up for this West African derby, but there was not a single shot on target in the first half as the teams struggled to create openings.

An early challenge from Senegal midfielder Nampalys Mendy on Guinea's Ilaix Moriba sparked an argument between players, and the first real chance of the game came when a thunderous shot from Mendy was diverted over the bar off the head off Mohamed Ali Camara.

Guinea employed a physical approach but could not provide service to star striker Serhou Guirassy, who was making his first appearance at the tournament following injury and could not get the better of Senegal captain Kalidou Koulibaly.

The holders appealed for a penalty on the stroke of half-time as star forward Sadio Mane fell to the ground following a duel with Saidou Sow, but referee Pacifique Ndabihawenimana waved play on.

The Burundian official did have work to do in first-half injury time when Ismail Jakobs sparked a mass confrontation which involved both sets of substitutes benches after the Senegal left-back shoved Guinea captain Naby Keita to the ground.

Senegal make experience count

Mane missed a golden opportunity to open the scoring early in the second half with the goal gaping.

The 31-year-old did the hard work by timing his run well and rounding Guinea goalkeeper Ibrahim Kone, but ultimately failed to direct his shot on target as he skewed wide at the near post.

Mane's miss did affect his side too badly though as Senegal did what they needed to do to win.

Seck headed powerfully into the net following a pinpoint free-kick delivery from Krepin Diatta - with the 61st-minute goal coming from the first shot on target in the game.

Former Sheffield United forward Ndiaye then sealed the win when he received a well-weighted pass from Mane before slotting the ball across goal and into the bottom left-hand corner of the net.

There was still time for Senegal keeper Edouard Mendy to make a fine diving save from Morgan Guilavogui's acrobatic volley, which was Guinea's best chance of the game.

It was not the most convincing performance from Cisse's side but, after beating The Gambia and Cameroon convincingly in their first two group games, they dealt effectively with a physical Guinea side.

Senegal remain on track to become the first side to retain the Afcon trophy since Egypt won their third in a row in 2010, while Guinea will aim to reach the quarter-finals for the first time since 2015.