Mane stars as Senegal begin title defence with victory. Liverpool striker grabs hat-trick to propel team to 3-1 win over Benin in AFCON qualifiers.

Johannesburg : Sadio Mane scored a hatrick as Senegal overcame Benin 3-1 on Saturday in the first match of their Africa Cup of Nations title defence, and hinted that he will not be at Liverpool next season.

Speaking to the media before the Group 1. clash, Mane said : '' I will do what they [the Senegalese people want.

''Like everyone else, I'm on social media and see the comments. Is it not between 60 and 70 percent of the Senegalese people want me to leave Liverpool?''

Mane, who forms a deadly strike partnership with two time  African Footballer of the Year Mohammad Salah from Egypt, has been linked to German giants Bayern Munich.

He has said he would reveal his future plans after Liverpool lost to Real Madrid in the Champions League final last weekend, but did not do so.

''We will see soon,'' he told the media conference in Senegal. ''Do not be in hurry because we will see this together.''

The 30-year-old reigning African Footballer of the Year converted a 12th-minute penalty at the national stadium in Diaminiado near Dakar.

Mane struck again on 23 minutes, bursting into the box and scoring at the second attempt after goalkeeper Saturnin Allagbe blocked his initial shot.

Benin had Sessi D'Almeida sent off early in the second half of the 2023 qualifier and Mane completed his hat-trick on the hour from another penalty befor Junior Olaitan reduced arrears.

Next up for Sengal is a trip to Rwanda on Tuesday, and it is hard to imagine any result other than another victory for the Teranga Lions.

Rwanda drew 1-1 away to Mozambique and they share second place behind Senegal and ahead of Benin, who were guided by caretaker Moussa Lataoundi after the departure of French coach Michel Dussuyer.

Eric Chelle, whose coaching experience has been limited to French lower-league clubs, made a dream debut as boss of Mali, who hammered Congo Brazilville 4-0 in Bamako.

Mohammad Camara put the Mailans ahead with just one minute on the clock and there were four goals ahead by half - time and as EI Bilal Toure netted twice and Kalifa Coulibaly once.

Mali top Group G on goal difference from the Gambia, who edged South Sudan 1-0 through a goal from Abile Jallow at the end of the opening half.

Gambia debuted in the Cup of Nations this year and beat higher ranked sides Tunisia and Guinea and held Mali before bowing to hosts Cameroon in the quarter-finals. [AFP]


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