ALGERIA 1-2 TUNISIA: MAHREZ AND CO ON THE BRINK
The all North African affair kick-started the action on day 6 of the ongoing AFCON 2017 as Algeria and Tunisia renewed hostilities in what was a hotly contested encounter. Algeria, coming into the tournament as one of the hot favourites to go all the way and with crown jewel and reining African footballer of the year, Riyad Mahrez in their arsenal as well as some of the continent’s finest players in Islam Slimani and Yacine Brahimi, the Fennecs were expected to take the AFCON by storm. But after two games, not quite.
Algeria are in real danger of missing out on a quarter-final spot with a 1-2 loss against Tunisia leaving them with just 1 point after 2 games and behind Tunisia and Senegal who both have 3 points apiece with the Terranga Lions playing later in the day.. After opening their account with a 2-2 stalemate against Zimbabwe, the Fennecs were expected to bounce back here against the Carthage Eagles but the 1-2 loss to Tunisia means Algeria currently are in a precipice and they need to beat Senegal in the last group game and hope other results go their way before they can seal qualification.
In what was an action packed first half with both teams serving up-end to end stuffs, both sides had really presentable chances to take the lead but they all spurned. In what was arguably the best half we have seen in the tourney so far, both keepers at either end were called into action a couple of times and the goalless stalemate at the end of the half did not give the fullest reflection of the game. But in the second half it was a completely different proposition with Tunisia almost immediately getting their noses in front after the recess. A throw in picked up Youssef Msakni and as he drifted out wide attempted a cross into the Algeria area only for the ball to ricochet off of Aissa Mandi and into the back of the net on the 50th minute mark.
Tunisia had their noses in front and they were not finished and after 66 minutes of proceedings, they were deservingly 2 goals to the good. Brahimi on an Algerian onslaught lost the ball and Msakni picked up the ball to locate Khazri but the ball fell to Algeria defender Ghoulam who tried heading the ball to his goalkeeper. It went horribly and Khazri, now one-on-one with the goalie was tripped by Ghoulam, penalty.
Naim Sliti stepped up and made no mistake from six yards sending the keeper the wrong way, 2-0. Algeria would pull 1 back in stoppage time as Sofiane Hanni curled home a beautiful belter but that was nothing more than a consolation as the Fennecs stir right down the barrel of elimination with the game against Senegal on Monday having potential ramifications.
SENEGAL 2-0 ZIMBABWE: TERRANGA LIONS SEAL QUARTER FINAL SPOT
It’s official. The Terranga Lions of Senegal are the first team to seal a place in the quarter finals at the ongoing AFCON in Gabon as they comprehensively beat Zimbabwe by 2 goals to nil to book their ticket. It was the kind of performance which will get the attention of rivals who harbor thoughts of making it all the way.
Senegal, having been unable to make it out of the group stage in the last 3 AFCONS they had participated in came to Gabon looking to right all their wrongs and after opening their account with a 2-0 victory over Tunisia plus this victory over the Warriors means Senegal are on the right path to really make an impact in the tourney.
The game started with Senegal looking to quickly stamp their authority on proceedings as they swamped the Zimbabwean area with one attack after the other and when they broke the deadlock as early as the 10th minute, it was not surprising. Balde Diao, so impressive on the nigh broke through the left side of Zimbabwe’s defence and delivered a one-time low cross which was met by the onrushing Sadio Mane to pounce home into an empty net.
Three minutes later, Senegal put the game to bed. Diao was brought down a few yards outside of the Zimbabwean penalty area and Henri Saivet curled home delectably the resultant freekick. At that point, it was a matter of how many the Terranga Lions were going to score. The Warriors however grew into the game as the minutes wore on having a few speculative chances here and there but could not really capitalize.
The story was pretty much the same in the second half with Senegal guilty of not wrapping up the game with the likes of Sadio Mane, Mame Biram Diouf and Mousa Sow all missing gilt edged chances to increase the tally. Zimbabwe had chances of their own to really peg the Terranga Lions back but they were also unable to punish Senegal as Aliou Cisse and his chances winded down the clock to close the game out.
What it means is that Senegal lie top of Group B with 6 maximum points and have already sealed qualification. But Tunisia in second place with 3 points, Algeria in third place with 1 and Zimbabwe in fourth with 1 point also all have a chance of joining Senegal into the last eight making the last round of matches finely poised. Senegal square up with Algeria whiles Tunisia lock horns with Zimbabwe, all on Monday.
By: Enoch Andoh-Mensah