ALGERIA 2-2 ZIMBABWE
Reigning African Footballer of the year Riyad Mahrez scored twice for the Atlas Lions of Algeria but it was not enough as they opened their AFCON 2017 account with a hard-earned draw. Mahrez and co were huge favourites going into the group B opener and were tipped to make light work of their opponents Zimbabwe and after the Leicester City talisman opened the scoring with a left footed curler in the 12th minute, it seemed like Zimbabwe had some task at hand.
But the Warriors showed class and strength in their first AFCON appearance since 2006 and were good value for their equalizer through Kudakwashe Mahachi who stroke home on the 17th minute. And barely 12 minutes later the Zimbabweans had their noses in front in stunning scenarios when star man Khama Billiat was brought down in the Algeria area. Nyasha Mushekwi made no mistake burying home the resulting kick.
In the 2nd half, the Atlas Lions came agonizingly close to pulling parity only to be denied twice by the woodwork as they poured more men in search of the equalizer. It was only a matter of when not if they dis and when Mahrez finally scored the equalizer, it had an inevitability with it. Algeria will now look forward to the second round of games where they will expect to really kick-start their tourney. Make no mistake, Zimbabwe gave Algeria quite a scare in what would have been an early shocker at the ongoing tourney. The warriors were hugely impressive in applying the brakes on Algeria’s other top attacking talents with Islam Slimani spurning numerous chances to really clinch victory for Algeria. An absolutely enthralling game overall.
TUNISIA 0-2 SENEGAL
A Sadio Mane Senegal opened their AFCON 2017 account with a brilliant 2-0 victory over the Carthage Eagles of Tunisia. After all of the 3 previous games played so far all resulted in stalemates with the likes of hosts Gabon, Cameroon and Algeria all held, the Terranga Lions recorded the first victory of Gabon 2017 without having to break much of a sweat.
Tunisia started the brighter side showing clear intent of immediately hitting the ground running but were cruelly undone when Cheikou Kouyate was hackled in the box. Sadio Mane stepped up and converted the kick on the 10th minute getting Senegal’s noses in front completely against the run of play. Tunisia still were pretty much controlling the proceedings and pegged Senegal back in the 30th minute all of their good work were undone again when Kara Mbodj rose highest to meet a cross with a powerful header sending the Terranga Lions on cloud nine.
After barely half an hour of proceedings, Senegal looked home and dry of picking up the maximum points. The tempo of the game rarely hit top gear in the 2nd half as Senegal looked like winding the clock down and Tunisia never really looked pulling even a goal back. The Terranga Lions with Kalidou Koulibaly and Sadio Mane will be looking to win their first ever AFCON and this was the ideal start they craved as they now top group B after round one as Algeria were held earlier on in the day by Zimbabwe.
The second round of games could prove crucial and Tunisia who have won the AFCON once themselves on home soil in 2004 will be looking to get their campaign back on track. Day two of the ongoing AFCON in Gabon served up some really exciting games as the tourney begins to take shape.