2019 AFCON: Super Eagles dash South African dreams to progress to Semi-finals, Senegal defeat Benin Republic

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William Ekong’s late goal ensures the Super Eagles advance to the 2019 AFCON semi-finals with a 2-1 win over South Africa’s Bafana Bafana in Cairo on Wednesday.

Samuel Chukwueze had opened scoring in the 27th minute, while Bongani Zungu drew Bafana Bafana level in the 71st minute.

But, as extra time was knocking at the door, defender William Ekong scored to dash South African hopes.

Meanwhile, Senegal’s Idrissa Gana Gueye scored 20 minutes from time for a 1-0 win over Benin Republic to take them through as expected to the semi-finals.

However, in spite of Benin finishing with 10 men, they still managed to make it a  largely laboured affair for Senegal.

Gana Gueye’s goal was one of the few highlights at Cairo’s 30 June Stadium with the midfielder setting up the move and then finishing much to the relief of Africa’s top-ranked team.

He had possession just outside the centre circle, passed the ball directly forward to Sadio Mane.

Then, he sprinted upfield to virtually steal the ball off his team mate and tuck away a neat finish.

Senegal must now wait until Thursday to find out whether they meet either Madagascar or Tunisia in Sunday’s semi-final.

Gana Gueye might have had a second goal some eight minutes from time with a similar surging run through the midfield.

But he was pulled back on the edge of the Benin penalty area by defender Olivier Verdon who was promptly sent off.

Senegal created the better chances in the contest but those expecting a dominant showing against a team 66 places below them in the FIFA world rankings were left disappointed.

A combination of spirited defending from Benin and unusually tepid attacking from Senegal kept the game goalless until the 70th minute breakthrough.

Mane had the ball in the net twice but was offside on both occasions, verified by the Video Assistant Referee (VAR).

The technology was being used in the tournament for the first time from the quarter-final stage.

The Liverpool FC forward also had an effort cleared off the line three minutes after Gana Gueye’s goal.

There were several goalmouth scrambles that provided Benin with nervy moments but Senegal were unable to find the net.

Timely tackles from Verdon and defensive partner Moise Adilehou kept the Senegal attack at bay and the underdogs in the contest.

Benin had a couple of chances, both falling to 34-year-old striker Mickael Pote, who was narrowly wide with a cheeky backheel in the 26th minute.

He should have scored straight after halftime but hit a tame effort straight at goalkeeper Alfred Gomis.

But there was to be no repeat for the small west African country of their heroics in the previous round when they eliminated Morocco in a penalty shootout.

Senegal will feature in the semi-finals for a fourth time but on the first occasion since 2006.

Their best Cup of Nations achievement was finishing runners-up in 2002.

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