Sadio Mane’s injury-time penalty denied the Warriors a famous draw against a star-studded Senegal, who escaped with a hard-fought 1-0 win over Zimbabwe in the opening match in Group B of the African Cup of Nations Bafoussam on Monday.
Zimbabwe appeared to have done enough to deny Africa’s top-ranked side a win in their first of the tournament after keeping their stars at bay for 90 minutes and four minutes of injury time at the Kouekong Stadium.
Their hard work was cruelly undone on the stroke of full-time when Kelvin Madzongwe handled the ball inside the box resulting in Senegal being awarded a spot-kick right at the death.
Referee Mario Escobar pointed to the spot and after consulting with the video assistants confirmed his decision.
The costly error allowed Mane, who had cut a lone figure for long periods in the match after wasting a couple of good chances in the first half, to step up and send Petros Mhari the wrong way.
Although Zimbabwe appeared to have done enough to at least claim a point, Senegal were the better side for long periods in the match.
The Teranga Lions had earlier got off to a brilliant start with Bayern Munich ace Bouna Sarr coming close to scoring as early as the first minute after combining with Mane, who also set up Keita Balde a few minutes later only for the latter to scuffed his effort wide.
After a nervy start, the Warriors started to grow in the match with Warriors captain Knowledge Musona tried his luck from distance but his ambitious shot failed to trouble Senegal Seny Dieng.
Mane missed a good chance to break the deadlock when he showed incredible skill to beat two markers on the left flank but his curling low effort was brilliantly saved by Mhari.
After the break, defenders Pape Cisse and Abdou Diallo both headed wide from a set plays as Senegal look for the breakthrough against the resilient Warriors.
Zimbabwe were unlucky not to open the score 15 minutes for time in the highly charged match Baffoussam when Teenage Hadebe’s weak effort from Musona’s freekick cross was saved by Seny Dieng.
Aliou Cisse’s team won a late penalty when substitute Pape Gueye’s effort came off the arm of defender Kelvin Wilbert in stoppage time and star man Sadio Mane fired in the winner from the spot.
The victory sends Senegal to the summit of the Group B ahead of Guinea’s encounter with Malawi later.