Algeria Star Mahrez Inspires Foxes To Afcon Qualification

Algeria’s Riyad Mahrez celebrates with the trophy during the award ceremony after Algeria defeated Senegal in the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations final soccer match at the Cairo International Stadium, in Cairo, Egypt, on 19 July 2019. (Photo by Islam Safwat/NurPhoto)

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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