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Mahrez and Algeria top Mane’s Senegal in the heavyweight clash

Mane struggled to impress on his return from suspension as Youcef Belaili crashed home the winner on 49 minutes

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Algeria's Riyad Mahrez beat Mane's Senegal in the 2019 AFCON

Riyad Mahrez and Algeria fired a warning to the rest of their Africa Cup of Nations title rivals with a deserved 1-0 win over Sadio Mane’s heavily-fancied Senegal in Cairo on Thursday.

Mane struggled to impress on his return from suspension as Youcef Belaili crashed home the winner on 49 minutes to guarantee Algeria a berth in the last 16.

It is almost a decade since Algeria last made an impact at the competition by reaching the 2010 semi-finals, and this was a performance of great promise from the north African side in front of a large crowd at a blustery 30 June Stadium.

“We can’t say we look like a title-winning side. Beating Senegal is not an easy thing to do and there won’t be many teams capable of doing it, but that doesn’t mean things are settled,” said Algeria coach Djamel Belmadi.

“It’s just the second group game. Sure it’s against a very strong side but it’s just a group match.”

Senegal, on the hunt for a first continental title, will still be expected to join Algeria in the knockout rounds as they wrap up the group phase against Kenya on July 1.

“Of course Sadio Mane can do better,” said Senegal boss Aliou Cisse. “There was a lot of technical errors in our game. He was less prominent but I’m not concerned. It’s the whole team that needs to raise its level of play.”

Related: Cameroon coach, Seedorf invites more players into his AFCON squad

Mane was one of three changes to the Senegal team that brushed Tanzania aside 2-0 in their opening game, with Cheikhou Kouyate filling in for the injured Salif Sane in central defence. Belmadi stuck with the Algeria team that rolled Kenya over by the same scoreline.

Resuming a Premier League rivalry that saw City pip Liverpool in a thrilling title race last season, Mane’s Senegal controlled possession initially albeit without testing Algeria goalkeeper Rais M’Bohli. Mane ballooned one free-kick well over while Keita Balde completely miscued another.

Having absorbed Senegal’s advances with relative comfort, Algeria grew more assertive and Baghdad Bounedjah had Edouard Mendy scrambling across his goal when his a deflected effort that bounced narrowly wide.

  • Sustained Algeria pressure tells –
    Bounedjah, who hit 39 goals in just 21 starts for Qatar’s Al Sadd last season, looked odds on to score for the second game running in Egypt when he lifted the ball over Mendy only for a retreating Kalidou Koulibaly to clear.

The Algeria forward then nodded wide from a Mahrez free-kick and forced Mendy to force behind a scuffed attempt across goal.

The half-time interval failed to arrest Algeria’s momentum as a sweeping attack saw Bounedjah lay off for Sofiane Feghouli to curl wide, but the breakthrough soon came for the Desert Foxes.

After Senegal conceded possession Feghouli pulled back from the byline down the right for Belaili to take a touch and slam the ball beyond a motionless, unsighted Mendy.

Having created a raft of chances in a commanding win over Tanzania, Senegal’s attack found a compact Algeria far less forgiving and Mahrez went close to doubling the lead with a fizzing strike from distance.

Senegalese penalty appeals were ignored when Mane was sandwiched by Ramy Bensebaini and Adlene Guedioura, while M’Bohli did well to repel a stinging shot from Youssouf Sabaly with substitute Mbaye Diagne heading the rebound wide as the Teranga Lions searched for an equaliser.

Related: Mo’ Salah’s strike sends Egypt into AFCON 2019 round of 16

Algeria survived a late scare when Bounedjah almost inadvertently poked a set-piece into his own net, but this is the first time they have won their first two matches at the Cup of Nations since 1990 when they ended up winning the title.

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North Africa Sports

Benin stun Morocco in AFCON round of 16

The squirrels of Benin have reached an AFCON quarter final for the first time

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Benin stunned Africa Cup of Nations title contenders Morocco on penalties to reach the quarter-finals for the first time after a 1-1 draw in Cairo on Friday.

Related: Benin’s squad enjoys local cuisine away from home

Moise Adilehou put Benin ahead early in the second half before Youssef En-Nesyri equalised, but Hakim Ziyech blew the chance to seal victory for Morocco by striking the post with a 96th-minute penalty.

Sofiane Boufal and En-Nesyri both missed in the shootout as Benin, who reached the last 16 on the back of three draws, triumphed 4-1 on spot-kicks.

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Herve Renard hopes to torment Ivory Coast with Morrocan team

Morocco and the Ivory Coast meet Friday in a Group D top-of-the-table showdown in Cairo.

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Morocco's coach Herve Renard wants to inflict more injury on Ivory Coast

Since transforming the Ivory Coast into African champions four years ago, Herve Renard has tormented them as coach of Morocco. The 50-year-old Frenchman, whose matchday shirts are always white, ensured the 2017 title defence of the Ivorians did not last beyond the first round as they fell 1-0 to the Moroccans.

Renard inflicted more misery on his former team in 2018 World Cup qualifying with a 2-0 triumph in Abidjan taking Morocco to Russia at the expense of the Ivory Coast. Considered potential winners of the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations in Egypt, Morocco and the Ivory Coast meet Friday in a Group D top-of-the-table showdown in Cairo. “This is a special game for me,” said Renard, the only coach to win the Cup of Nations with two countries, Zambia and the Ivory Coast.

Here is a preview of the Group D doubleheader with the Ivory Coast-Morocco clash followed by Namibia against South Africa, while Group E leaders Mali face Tunisia in Suez.

Ivory Coast v Morocco: Both countries launched their campaigns with solitary-goal victories in mid-afternoon Cairo heat, but the Ivorians will have been the happier side. While they outmuscled South Africa and should have won by more than a Jonathan Kodjia strike. Morocco laboured to a win that came via a late Itamunua Keimuine own-goal.

Ivory Coast coach Ibrahim Kamara said “the result was more important than the performance. It was critical not to fail in our opening match”. Rather than slam a lacklustre Moroccan display, Renard hailed Namibia: “They were well organised and coached.”

While both nations should make the last 16, winning the group would set up a fixture against one of the third-place qualifiers while coming second means taking on the Group E winners.

Namibia v South Africa: Namibia coach Ricardo Mannetti played for his country when they were humiliated 4-1 by South Africa at the 1998 Cup of Nations in Burkina Faso

“The best way to banish those memories would be to beat Bafana Bafana (The Boys). We have never won a Cup of Nations match and that is our priority,” he said. “My players were heartbroken after holding Morocco for 89 minutes and then losing to an own-goal.”

South Africa were inept against the Ivorians and this match could decide which country sneaks through as a third-place finisher and which makes an early exit. England-born coach Stuart Baxter has warned his players not to underestimate Namibia because “this match is like a cup final for them”.

Mali v Tunisia: Tunisia coach and former France star Alain Giresse knows what to expect from Mali as he coached them twice at the Cup of Nations with mixed results. Under him, the Malians came third at the 2012 Cup of Nations in Gabon but made a first-round exit in the same country two years ago without winning a match. 

Now Giresse hopes to bring the Malian Eagles down to earth after they achieved the biggest win of the 12 first series matches in Egypt, a 4-1 hammering of debutants Mauritania. The Mali scorers included burly Moussa Marega, who notched six goals for Porto in the Champions League last season, the equal third best tally.

Tunisia were the only one of the six top group seeds not to collect maximum points and midfielder Ferjani Sassi blamed “an inability to convert chances” for a 1-1 draw with Angola.

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Mo’ Salah’s strike sends Egypt into AFCON 2019 round of 16

Record seven-time champions Egypt secured a place in the last 16 on Wednesday with a 2-0 win over the Democratic Republic of Congo

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Egypt's Mohamed Salah takes on a free kick during the 2019 as Egypts qualified for the next round

Mohamed Salah scored his first goal of the Africa Cup of Nations as hosts Egypt secured a place in the last 16 on Wednesday with a 2-0 win over the Democratic Republic of Congo. Ahmed Elmohamady prodded Egypt ahead on 25 minutes after a wicked Salah cross and the Liverpool star slammed in a second shortly before half-time to spark frenzied celebrations at a packed Cairo International Stadium.

Record seven-time champions Egypt rode their luck at times as DR Congo twice struck the crossbar in the first half but the Group A leaders held firm to join Nigeria as the first teams through to the knockout phase.

Egypt overcame the distraction of Amr Warda being banished from the squad earlier in the day over mounting sexual harassment allegations. The claims surfaced earlier this week on social media platforms. Multiple women posted screenshots and testimonies of Warda’s alleged lewd comments.

“I think the team is strong and the squad is strong but we are not happy to lose a member of our family,” said coach Javier Aguirre. “The team focused more on our match and played the 90 minutes in a serious manner. I don’t think the Egyptian team will be affected by the absence of anyone.”

Aguirre fielded the same side that defeated Zimbabwe 1-0, with centre-back Ahmed Hegazy sporting a mask after breaking his nose in the opening game of the tournament. Salah was guilty of missing a hatful of chances in the curtain-raiser and this season’s English Premier League joint top scorer again threatened inside five minutes here when an interception broke his way only for the Egyptian to skew wide under pressure.

After four days of small crowds, another capacity 75,000 crowd turned out to cheer on the hosts in the capital, but they were nearly silenced when Marcel Tisserand slammed against the bar at a corner. 

Related: AFCON 2019 host defeat Guinea in a warm-up match

Salah takes over

DR Congo came to Egypt as one of the most unpredictable qualifiers having finished third in 2015 only to make a quarter-final exit two years ago, and they fell behind for the second straight game as Elmohamady forced home after the ball fell kindly to him following an aerial challenge with Christian Luyindama.

Having created the opener with his vicious right-wing cross, Salah then stung the palms of Ley Matampi with a powerful 25-yard free-kick. Egypt would be rescued by the woodwork once more though when a deep cross was nodded back across goal by Bokadi Bope and Jonathan Bolingi’s looping header bounced back off the bar.

With his side riding their luck, Salah rose to the occasion and settled Egyptian nerves two minutes before half-time with a typically brilliant finish. Played into space down the right by Mahmoud ‘Trezeguet’ Hassan, Salah skipped inside Tisserand and ripped a crisp low drive inside Matampi’s near post to cue a volcanic eruption from the masses of Egyptian supporters.

Mohamed El Shenawy produced an excellent sprawling second-half save to claw out a Jacques Maghoma header, but despite an improvement on a horror first outing, DR Congo now knows they must beat Zimbabwe in their final game in order to possibly advance as one of the four best third-place finishers.

“The feelings are mixed when you play such a match. Unfortunately, we lost so the feeling is one of hurt, particularly for my players. They gave a lot and fought hard but didn’t get the result,” said DR Congo coach Florent Ibenge, whose side fell 2-0 to Uganda in their opening match.

Related: Cameroon warns rivals ahead of AFCON group stage

“We’ve got one match left against Zimbabwe and we can hope for third place. We’re going to fight until the end.”

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