Algerian fans celebrate the team's victory in Africa's Cup of Nations in Algiers, Algeria, July 19, 2019. Algeria beat Senegal in Africa's Cup of Nations final by 1-0 and claimed the title of the event in Egypt's Cairo on July 19. (Xinhua)
by Ahmed Shafiq
CAIRO, July 19 (Xinhua) -- Shouts of cheering Algerian fans rocked Egypt's Cairo International Stadium Friday night when the referee's final whistle announced their national team African Cup of Nations (AFCON) champions with a 1-0 over over Senegal in the final.
Baghdad Bounedjah's first minute deflected effort handed Algeria their second AFCON title after a 29-year wait.
Algeria who were playing only their second final since 2010 held on to the slim advantage for the rest of the 90 minutes while Senegal's wait for a maiden AFCON title still lingers on.
Algeria's tact of starting off quick and playing the ball in Senegal's half worked perfectly until halfway through when the Teranga Lions started roaring slowly into the game.
Through the first half, Senegal had some chances to score, but the Algerians held on to the score-line and went to the break with a clean sheet.
In the second half, Senegal were given a penalty kick, but it was revoked after VAR review.
Senegal kept pushing and came close again in the 65th minute when Imaila Sarr beautifully picked up a long ball from Lamine Gassama before striding into the box, gliding past the keeper but his eventual shot came off the side netting.
With the clock ticking, Senegal manager Aliou Cisse made changes in an attempt to score an urgently needed goal, but Djamel Belmadi's men managed to secure the Cup of Nations crown with an unbeaten run.
"Our players were real heroes today...we are thankful to their courageous run that brought us this priceless cup," Jamal Mahdi, an Algerian fan, told Xinhua after the match.
Outside the stadium, thousands of overjoyed Algerian fans, joined by thousands of Egyptian supporters, gathered to celebrate the win, chanting slogans and waving national flags.
Holding Algeria's flag, Mahdi celebrated cheerfully as they chanted Algerian national team, while other supporters waved to the celebrating player in the bitch with tears of joy.
"We were the best since the tournament started. The players followed the instruction of the boss; this is what really made the difference," Mahdi added.
Besides winning the ultimate for the second time in their history, champions Algeria also dominated in the individual awards category as the AFCON reached its climax.
Midfielder Ismael Bennacer was adjudged the Total Man of the Competition, the prize for the most valuable player of the tournament. The 21-year old had a big say as 'Les Fennecs' cruised to the title, their first since 1990.
Goalkeeper Rais Mbolhi won a double on the final day. He was decorated as the Continental Best goalkeeper, the award for the best shot-stopper of the competition.
He also picked up the Total Man of the Match award of the final match.
Before the final's kickoff whistle, a simple but colorful closing ceremony lasted for almost 15 minutes.
The ceremony was highlighted by enormous and amazing fireworks that lit the skies of Cairo with almost 60,000 spectators in the stands cheering and lighting the place.
African and Egyptian music was there with Ghanaian Afropop singer Fuse ODG and Egypt's Donia Samir Ghanem performing some breathtaking music.
Algerian fans did not only praise their national team's players, but also Egypt for the successful organization of Africa's most prestigious football contest.
"We highly thank and congratulate Egypt for the great organization and world-class stadiums," said Malek Abdel-Qader, an Algerian who flew to Egypt with his friends to back his country's team throughout the tournament.
"Egypt proves once again that it is the biggest country in Africa, this organization of this tournament is just similar to other famous continental and international competitions," the middle-aged man told Xinhua.
In January, the Confederation of African Football (CAF) announced that Egypt will host Africa's largest continental football tournament for the fifth time in its history.
The tournament was initially scheduled to be hosted by Cameroon. However, Cameroon was stripped of the right to host the tournament for serious delay in preparations.