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.”
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.
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.
Egypt’s star Mohammed Salah set to miss friendly against Botswana
Salah finished fourth in the balloting for the FIFA best player award last week
Liverpool star Mohamed Salah “must rest” and will miss Egypt’s friendly against Botswana on October 14, national team coach Hossam El Badry said Thursday. The announcement came days after Salah raised eyebrows by changing his Twitter bio to say he only played for Liverpool, removing any mention of his affiliation to Egypt.
Salah finished fourth in the balloting for the FIFA best player award last week, with two of Egypt’s votes rejected by football’s governing body after they were signed in capital letters. El Badry said he spoke to Salah following a report from the national team doctor on the fitness of the squad’s overseas-based players.
“I agreed with him that it is in his best interests and those of the national team that he rests,” El Badry told local channel MBC Masr. “He won’t be with us at the training camp for Botswana, but God willing, he will be with us for the official matches.”
Salah scored twice on Wednesday as holders Liverpool defeated Salzburg 4-3 at home in the Champions League group stage.
Salah and the Egyptian FA have butted heads before several times, most prominently when a photo of him was plastered on the squad’s plane ahead of the 2018 World Cup, causing sponsorship problems for the star.
El Badry will take charge of his first match as Egypt coach against Botswana following his appointment last month. Egypt begin their qualifying campaign for the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations at home to Kenya in November.
Football fans clash leaves one dead and 4 injured in Morocco
one person died of his injuries after “falling from on top of the vehicle”
One person was killed and five injured in clashes between rival football fans after a cup tie near the Moroccan city of Casablanca, local authorities said Wednesday.
“A group of supporters of Wydad Casablanca (club) stopped a vehicle carrying fans of AS FAR Rabat, throwing stones and the situation degenerated,” they said in a statement.
They said one person died of his injuries after “falling from on top of the vehicle” and five others were hospitalised.
Police made six arrests over the violence which followed a 3-1 defeat for the home club. Football violence is common in Morocco costing the lives of supporters in March 2016, after which authorities temporarily cracked down on radical supporters clubs.
Mo Salah and Egyptian FA fall out after vote in FIFA awards goes astray
Salah hinted his disappointment in the Egyptian Football Association earlier today
Egypt’s football association has asked FIFA for clarification after its vote for national icon Mohamed Salah was dropped from the final tally for the world’s best player award.
The results are based on the votes of national coaches, team captains and members of the press in selecting their top three players of the year.
When FIFA released its results, Egypt was curiously absent from the final vote count.
In comments online blame was aimed at Egypt’s football federation for failing to ensure Salah would be given the maximum chance in all votes, although he eventually finished fourth, 20 votes behind winner Lionel Messi. Messi won with 46 votes while Salah scored only 26 in fourth.
Mo Salah hinted at his disappointment through his social media activity, changing his Twitter bio to say he only plays for Liverpool and removing any mention of his affiliation to Egypt.
To add insult to injury, Hany Daniel, the Egyptian journalist in the voting, picked Senegalese forward Sadio Mane, Salah’s Liverpool team-mate, ahead of the Egyptian striker who he relegated to third place behind Cristiano Ronaldo.
Salah posted a conciliatory tweet after saying “no matter how much they try to change my love for you and your people,” referring to Egypt, “they won’t be able to”.
Hours after the controversy, the Egyptian Football Association said it had asked FIFA for an explanation as to why its vote “was not approved”.
The statement released late Tuesday said the association had sent its votes officially to FIFA on August 15 and they were registered on August 19.
Mo Salah and the EFA have butted heads before several times, most prominently when a photo of him was plastered on the squad’s plane ahead of the 2018 World Cup, causing sponsorship problems for the star.
The EFA has been beset with governance issues and was vehemently pilloried by fans for Egypt’s early exit from the Africa Cup of Nations.
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