Franck Kessie keeps his cool to knock out holders Senegal on penalties

By Sports Desk January 29, 2024

Franck Kessie stepped up from the penalty spot to send defending champions Senegal tumbling out of the Africa Cup of Nations and spark wild celebrations in Yamoussoukro.

Kessie had given hosts Ivory Coast hope when he coolly dispatched an 86th-minute spot-kick past Senegal goalkeeper Edouard Mendy to send the tie into extra-time.

And the 27-year-old delivered once again with the crucial kick to seal a 5-4 win in the shoot-out after Moussa Niakhate had missed his earlier effort for the favourites.

The Ivory Coast’s win continued a remarkable revival for the hosts who had looked down and out in the group stage after a 4-0 humiliation at the hands of Equatorial Guinea.

Senegal had looked set to end the curse that had seen no defending champions reach the last eight since 2010 when Habib Diallo rifled home with just four minutes on the clock.

The hosts responded well as they pinned Senegal back in their own half, but the holders’ defence held firm and Ivory Coast were restricted to a succession of half-chances.

Seko Fofana’s run into a dangerous area was superbly snuffed out by Niakhate and Senegal almost extended their advantage on the stroke of half-time when Ismaila Sarr stumbled over a shooting chance.

Sarr came close again early in the second half but Ivory Coast continued to press through Oumar Diakite, who almost served up a leveller for Jean Philippe Krasso just before the hour mark.

The holders missed an even better opportunity in the 74th minute when Kessie’s free-kick was parried by Mendy, who somehow got in the way of the same player’s follow-up from a tight angle.

Substitute Nicolas Pepe missed another huge chance when he lashed a curling effort straight at Mendy, but earned his side their crucial penalty four minutes from time when he was tripped by Mendy in the box.

Kessie kept his cool to force the additional half-hour and after neither side could break the deadlock, it came down to the shoot-out where the hosts scored all five to seal a famous triumph.

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