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Mane, Salah face off in AFCON finale

Two of the English Premier League’s biggest stars will be the centre of attraction at Sunday’s finale of the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations in Cameroon.

Even though they mainly play for the same team, Liverpool duo, Sadio Mane of Senegal and Mohamed Salah of Egypt will face each other in the final.

Salah’s Egypt, seven-time record holders defeated hosts Cameroon 3-1 on penalties at the end of a goalless 120 minutes at the Olembe Stadium in Yaounde on Thursday to reach the final.

Egyptian goalkeeper, Mohamed Abou Gabal was the hero of the game after saving two penalties in the shootout.

The keeper, who turns out for Zamalek in the Egypt Premier League stopped uninspiring kicks from AS Saint-Etienne defender, Harold Moukoudi and Middlesbrough midfielder, James Lea Siliki before Dynamo Moscow forward, Clinton Njie blazed wide, ending Cameroon’s dreams for a victory before bursting in tears.

Salah scored Egypt’s fifth penalty shot hand the Pharaohs 5-4 victory over the Elephants of Ivory Coast in their round of 16 fixture at the Japoma Stadium in Douala on January 26, but the EPL top scorer was not needed as his side advanced to the final.

Mane’s Senegal had already booked their second straight final spot when the Liverpool strongman found his scoring touch, assisting and netting in the Teranga Lions’ 3-1 victory over Burkina Faso in Yaounde on Wednesday.

The Liverpool duo have had so far had prolific performances since the knockout stages leading their national teams from the front and always rising to the occasion when required.

For Mane though, it has not been an easy task as he admitted playing and winning against Burkina Faso was challenging.

“We knew it was not going to be at all easy to get to two straight Afcon finals, but the most important for us now is to go all the way and win it,” the Liverpool star told journalists after emerging man of the match in their 3-1 semi-final win.

Salah and Mane will no doubt be the center of attraction during the final, but they are just two of atleast seven EPL players in both squads.

Arsenal’s Mohamed Elneny and Aston Villa’s Mohamed Trezeguet join Salah on the Pharaohs’ side while Chelsea, Edouard Mendy, Cristal Palace’s Cheikhou Kouyate, Leicester’s Nampalys Mendy and Watford’s Ismaila Sarr join Mane on the Teranga Lions’ side.