Algeria marched into the semi-finals of the 2022 African Nations Championship (CHAN) in dramatic fashion, after a highly entertaining encounter with Cote D’Ivoire.
The game had to be decided in the dying stages, courtesy of Aimen Mahious’ penalty kick conversion at a packed Nelson Mandela Stadium in Algiers on Friday.
The drama-filled encounter lived up to its high expectations with all the ingredients of a quarter-final clash of two of Africa’s football powerhouses.
The action kicked off at a frantic pace with both sides having a go at each other in search of an early lead to the enjoyment of the expectant crowd.
Midfield sensation Zakaria Draoui was unlucky not to put his side ahead in the eighth minute.
This was after doing well to isolate himself from his markers as a cross from Youcef Laouafi found him.
But the now unmarked midfielder saw his header coming off the woodwork.
In an immediate response, the Ivorians should have grabbed the lead when a golden opportunity fell for Aziz Abdoul.
He was found unmarked by Salifou, but he misdirected his strike with nothing but the goal at his mercy.
Again it was the hosts in attack as the game continued to heat up.
This was when a delightful ball from Laouafi, who was a livewire down the left side for the Fennecs, found target man Aimen Mahious.
Mahious’ well-taken header was however acrobatically saved by Ayayi Folly in the 11th minute.
Drama ensued in the 19th minute after Algerian goalkeeper Alexis Guendouz was sent off for an early shower after a dangerous tackle on Abdoul to the disappointment of the hosts.
As fate would have it, minutes later it was The Elephants who were reduced to 10 men.
This was after Kouassi Attohoula was sent off for a dangerous foul on Laouafi, as both sides went into the break with 10 men on the field.
Coming off the break, the two sides continued where they left off, launching attack after attack in search of the all-important opener.
The Fennecs had the first chance of the second stanza after Choahaib Keddad did well to press down the right for a cross to Mahious.
His attempted header was well directed but lacked the firepower as it was saved by the goalkeeper.
Minutes later, 19-year-old William Sankara almost stunned the hosts after unexpectedly firing from the edge of the danger area.
But he was unlucky to see his strike go inches over the bar.
Mahious remained a threat to the Ivorians and again came close to grabbing the lead in the 78th minute.
This was after a cross from Meziane Tahar saw the target man leaping forward for an impressive diving header that found an equally alert Folly who made the save.
The Ivorians continued pressing forward even against the highly vocal crowd and were unlucky not to grab the lead.
This was when substitute Mohamed Zougrana almost made an immediate impact.
That was after a deep run from the midfielder ended with a brilliant strike, which had beaten the goalkeeper but went over the bar.
With just minutes left in additional time, the all-important deciding goal came in dramatic fashion.
This was after Mahious was brought down by Aziz Siahone in a decision that had to be verified by VAR.
The striker stepped up and scored the much-needed winner as the Nelson Mandela stadium erupted in celebration.
Algeria will now await the outcome of Saturday’s match between Niger and Ghana to determine their semi-final opponents.
The match is set to take place at the Miloud Hadefi Stadium in Oran on Tuesday.