Title-holders Algeria have qualified for the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) scheduled for Cameroon, in spite of losing a two-goal lead to draw 2-2 with Zimbabwe in Harare on Monday.
Knowledge Musona and Prince Dube scored as Zimbabwe mustered the turnaround to revive their hopes of qualification.
The result sees Algeria move to 10 points while Zimbabwe remain second with five with two rounds of matches remaining.
The other group match saw Botswana beat Zambia 1-0, a result that will leave a tight ending for the single remaining slot from Group H.
Andy Delort and Riyad Mahrez had given the Desert Foxes the lead, but the home side pushed in for a fight to earn a point that took them to five in Group H.
It all means Algeria have seen their chance of concluding their qualification business after match day four halted.
Nonetheless, the North Africans stretched their unbeaten record to 22 games and moved to 10 points on top of the standings.
The reigning African champions opted for a reserved approach start to the game, with Zimbabwe chasing more as they knew only victory would take their campaign back on track.
Despite playing with their backs on the wall, Algeria still had their chances.
Sofiane Feghouli had a chance when he picked up the ball from inside the penalty box, but his shot went over.
Mahrez had three chances from free-kicks, his first after eight minutes brushing the side netting after beautifully curling beyond the ball.
In the 20th minute, he made a good delivery from the right, but the ball went just wide at the back post.
He had another one two minutes later from good scoring range, but he blasted the ball over.
Zimbabwe were good on the ball, and sprayed the ball upfront, but could not make the chances count.
They were made to pay after 33 minutes when Delort thumped in a powerful header behind the goalkeeper.
That was after sneaking in behind the defence to connect a Mohammed Reda cross from the right.
Four minutes later, Algeria were 2-0 up when Mahrez finally got his goal.
He expertly picked up a long cross from midfield before dummying his marker and thumping the ball into the net with his weaker right foot.
Two minutes from half-time though, the home side halved the deficit.
Skipper Musona curled a brilliant free-kick which beat goalkeeper Rais Mbolhi with a sweet curl which landed it on the far post.
Musona had scored just a minute after another free-kick of his was pushed onto the crossbar by Mbolhi.
The goal gave Zimbabwe some belief and they came back from the break a different side, going into attack from the first minute.
Tino Kadewere came close twice, first being denied by a point-blank save by the goalkeeper before his shot from inside the box rolled just wide.
They kept their pressure and drew level with nine minutes left.
That was when Mbohli fumbled as he tried to save Dube’s effort after side-footing when Musona’s corner-kick was flicked to the far post.
Scenting victory, the Zimbabweans piled pressure, but were unlucky not to score.
Meanwhile, in Francistown, Mosha Gaolaolwe scored the lone goal as Botswana beat Zambia 1-0 to pick their first win of the qualifiers and move to third in Group H.
Gaolaolwe scored in the sixth minute, a lead jealously guarded to revive their hopes of qualification.
The three points picked at home after one draw and two losses see them go to four points, one behind second-placed Zimbabwe with two rounds of matches left.
They will welcome Zimbabwe at home before flying out to Algeria for their final two qualifiers and the result against Zimbabwe is now billed as a final.
Zambia have dropped to bottom with three points and their final two matches at home against Algeria and away to Botswana will determine their fate.
Mahrez Bags Hat-trick in Man City’s 5-0 Thrashing of Burnley
Algeria’s Riyad Mahrez scored in the sixth minute in Manchester City’s 5-0 thrashing of Burnley to grab his 100th goal in the Premier League and joined five other African in the exclusive club list.
The goal ensured he became the sixth African player to reach the milestone after Didier Drogba, Emmanuel Adebayor, Yakubu Aiyegbeni, Mohammed Salah and Sadio Mane.
Mahrez would add two more goals to complete a hat-trick as Man City hammered Burnley at the Etihad Stadium in the Premier League on Saturday.
The win is the fourth straight time Pep Guardiola’s side have beaten the Clarets at home by that scoreline.
City had netted just 10 goals in their opening eight games, raising concerns from Guardiola about their finishing but they looked back to their sharpest best — helped by poor defending from Sean Dyche’s team.
Algerian Mahrez set City on their way in the sixth minute, finishing off a flowing passing move with his trademark cut in from the left and drive into the far corner.
There was a similar finish for the second after Mahrez picked up the ball in space in the area after Burnley had been caught out by a quick throw in.
Benjamin Mendy made it 3-0 in the 41st, volleying home his first goal for the club at the back post after a fine cross from Kevin De Bruyne.
Burnley, weakened by injuries and with Bailey Peacock-Farrell in goal instead of the sidelined Nick Pope, enjoyed some relief from the pressure after the break with Jay Rodriguez forcing a save out of Ederson with a well-struck effort from a tight angle.
But Ferran Torres added the fourth goal, slotting home after the overlapping Kyle Walker had found Gabriel Jesus in the box and the Brazilian flicked it to his Spanish team mate to convert confidently.
Mahrez completed his hat-trick, his first for City, in the 69th minute, heading home Phil Foden’s cross.
It could have been 6-0 had an effort from Jesus not been ruled out for offside by VAR and a shot from De Bruyne not crashed against the post.
Burnley also lost 5-0 at City last season in the Premier League, in the FA Cup in January, 2019 and in the league in 2018.
Broadcasters BT Sport said the last time a team beat the same opponent by five or more goals in four successive games was Notts County against Port Vale between 1893 and 1907.
“It’s been tough here the last few times we have been without doubt,” Dyche said.
“The media have been on about it and I don’t know whether they planted it in the players’ minds!
“The first goal is really poor. The game plan is almost dismantled by our own doing. 2-0 down here is really difficult as they grow with confidence and they are a top team without a doubt. We know the stats and facts of playing these sides.”
Guardiola was pleased his team had bounced back from last week’s defeat by Tottenham Hotspur and City moved up to eighth, six points behind leaders Liverpool.
“It was important to come back with a victory in the Premier League. One more game,” the Spaniard said.
“We play a lot of games, so to play 90 minutes and maintain a good level is not easy but there are always things to improve on.”
Nigeria Fall On Fifa Ranking, Egypt Rise
Nigeria on Friday slipped three spots to 35th position on the latest FIFA ranking.
The Super Eagles had failed to win the double-header 2022 Africa Cup of Nations qualifying fixture against Sierra Leone, drawing 4-4 at home and 0-0 away.
Nigeria is the fourth best country on the continent with Senegal retaining the no. 1 spot, followed by Tunisia and Algeria in the second and third positions, respectively.
Meanwhile, Egypt moved three places up to 49th on the rankings. The Pharaohs defeated the Togolese national side twice in the AFCON qualifying fixtures this month.
On the AFCON qualifying table, Egypt is tied on eight points with surprise package Comoros, after beating Togo 1-0 and 3-1 in the 3rd and 4th rounds respectively.
The Pharaohs are five points clear of third-placed Kenya, while Togo is rooted to the bottom with a solitary point.
Egypt jumped one place among African countries to the 6th position, behind Senegal (20), Tunisia (26), Algeria (31), Nigeria (35) and Morocco (35).
Belgium lead an unchanged top four national teams, including France, Brazil and England.
The best mover in the new ranking was Equatorial Guinea, jumping 10 places to the 134th place, while the biggest drop belonged to Libya, who fell nine spots to 111th place.
FIFA world rankings (October world ranking in parenthesis):
1. Belgium (1)
2. France (2)
3. Brazil (3)
4. England (4)
5. Portugal (5)
6. Spain (6)
7. Argentina (8)
8. Uruguay (7)
9. Mexico (11)
10. Italy (12)
Top ten African teams:
20. Senegal (21)
26. Tunisia (26)
31. Algeria (30)
35. Nigeria (32)
35. Morocco (39)
49. Egypt (52)
50. Cameroon (53)
52. Ghana (48)
57. Mali (56)
58. Burkina Faso (58)
Top five Arab teams:
26. Tunisia (26)
31. Algeria (30)
35. Morocco (39)
49. Egypt (52)
59. Qatar (57)
Al Ahly Defeat Zamalek In Feisty CCL Final Clash
Egyptian and African club giants, Al Ahly defeated local rivals Zamalek to win the CAF Champions League for a record 9th time.
Ahly, who went into the game with some key players missing after testing positive for COVID-19 raised the curtains as early as the 5th minute. The Egyptian champions scored through an Al-Sulaya header as they aimed to end their 7-year drought of continental success.
Zamalek thereafter showed more commitment to having the ball and had crisp passing all night in the Cairo derby at the magnificent Cairo International Stadium.
Lively Abdelrazek Shikabala’s beautiful solo effort helped Zamalek level in the 31st minute as they got rewarded for their better possession and urgency.
The second half saw a more stoked match with players of both teams putting their bodies on the line on many occasions.
Ahly improved after the break, and took the game to Zamalek who have been continental champions three times. Nigeria’s Junior Ajayi was lost to injury shortly after the break but it did little to stop Ahly from showing greater purpose.
The game got settled on the 86th minute as Ahly’s Mohammed Magdy scored an all-important winner to hand a 9th continental triumph to the Egyptians.
The game tagged “derby of the century” lived up to hype as a rare football spectacle was seen on a night where the team with a stroke of luck and experience won.
Ahly’s South African coach Pitso Mosimane underlined his status as the best coach in Africa as he has now won the continental showpiece with two different teams in two different countries.
He won the CAF Champions League with Premier Soccer League side, Mamelodi Sundowns in 2016 before his newest success with Al Ahly.
“Zamalek have a good team, they played well and gave us a big scare, they made us play better in the second half because they were stronger in the first,” Mosimane said after the game.
“They played like us, that’s the way we play but yeah, Al Ahly fans, I need to say to them that this is my gift to them. This Champions League trophy is there’s, they deserve it.”
The former Bafana Bafana boss further dedicated the success to the passionate supporters.
“I hope Inshallah that corona passes and we can have them in the stadiums again,” he said. “They deserve this trophy, they have waited for long, every week they came to the training sessions.
“Every day, everywhere I go they said ‘please win the trophy, please win the trophy’. The trophy is there now, there’s the trophy, maybe I can be a free man now [laughs].”
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