How VAR Rescued Ivory Coast in AFCON Thriller Against Senegal

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Ivory Coast secured a spot in the quarterfinals with a penalty shootout victory against reigning champions Senegal. The match, held in Yamoussoukro, ended 1-1 after extra time, but controversy arose when a crucial penalty was initially denied to the hosts.

Senegal’s early lead came through Habib Diallo’s fourth-minute goal, but Ivory Coast pressed for an equalizer. The pivotal moment occurred in the 83rd minute when Nicolas Pepe, former Arsenal player, was seemingly fouled by Senegal goalkeeper Edouard Mendy. The referee, however, waved away Ivory Coast’s penalty appeals and booked Pepe for diving. VAR intervention was necessary to correct this error.

After a prolonged delay, Franck Kessie converted the penalty in the 86th minute, leveling the score and forcing the game into extra time. Fans expressed astonishment on social media, highlighting the crucial role VAR played in correcting the referee’s decision.

“If not for VAR, that ref wouldn’t have given that STONEWALL penalty. Let that sink in,” emphasized one fan on X.

Another fan acknowledged the significance of VAR, stating, “The most blatant penalty I have ever seen. Thank goodness for VAR.”

Concerns were raised about the referee’s prolonged decision-making process. “How does this referee need so many looks for this stonewall penalty?” questioned a bemused supporter.

Despite the initial controversy, Ivory Coast capitalized on the momentum, taking the game to a penalty shootout. Franck Kessie once again emerged as a key player, converting the winning penalty. The victory marked a remarkable turnaround for Ivory Coast, who had faced two defeats in the group stage.

Senegal’s elimination continued a trend where no African champion, since Egypt in 2010, has managed to progress past the round of 16 in the following tournament. Ivory Coast will advance to the quarterfinals and face the winner of the match between Mali and Burkina Faso.

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