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AFCON 2015: Senegal, Algeria victorious in ‘Group of Death’
Ghana vs Senegal
Ghana: Brimah, Baba, Awal, Amartey, Afful, Mensah, Rabiu, Ayew, Badu, Atsu, Ayew
Senegal: Coundoul, Sane, Djilobodji, Mbodji, Koyate, Gueye, Diop, Badj, Souare, Diouf, N’doye
Senegal staged a second half comeback to earn their first African Cup of Nations victory since 2006; Diouf and Sow responding to Ayew’s penalty.
Ghana started the stronger and fittingly went ahead courtesy of an Andre Ayew penalty after Coundoul had brought down an on-rushing Atsu.
This allowed them the room to sit back and play on the counter, led by Ayew and Atsu, but their wastefulness denied them the opportunity to cushion their lead. Senegal would have made them pay for the profligacy as they came close on two occassions; Mbodj heading onto the bar and Diouf’s overhead kick denied by Brimah.
Senegal were resurgent in the second half and pulled level from a Mame Diouf header. The Senegalese made their second half dominance pay-off with virtually the last kick of the game. Substitute Moussa Sow finished off a beautiful team move past the on-rushing Brimah to secure a vital three points in this heavyweight group.
Algeria vs South Africa
Algeria: M’bolhi, Mandi, Medjani, Halliche, Ghoulam, Lacen, Bentaleb, Mahrez, Brahimi, Feghouli, Slimani
South Africa: Keet, Ngcongca, Hlatshwayo, Coetzee, Matlaba, Furman, Jali, Phala, Manyisa, Vilakazi, Rantie
The Desert Foxes escaped a South African scare to earn an expected victory in their AFCON opener.
The Algerians, who are massively favoured to win the competition, started in dominant fashion as expected but found it difficult to convert their ball hoarding into clear-cut chances. Bafana Bafana matched their opponents well; protecting in between the lines and preventing movement of the Algerian attacking quartet in the channels. Gourcuff’s side resorted to floating balls into the area, a move that brought no success.
Furman’s effort hitting the cross bar marked South Africa’s arrival into the party. He took advantage of an Algerian defensive lapse but his long range effort, unluckily, didn’t go in. More unlucky, young defender Coetzee had to be stretchered off after what seemed like a hamstring injury with Nhlapo coming on for him. The South Africans continued their ascent and had two good chances late on, where they managed to get behind Algeria’s defense but were not clinical enough; Vilakazi and Jali failing to finish off swift team moves. Misses they would later rue.
After a more or less dour first half, the second-half spark the game into life thanks to South Africa continuing their strong finish to the fprevious half. Phala finished off Vilakazi’s lay off after a brilliant one-two with Tokelo Rantie. Misery was not over for Algeria it seemed, Mandi conceded a penalty after hacking down Vilakazi. Unfortunately, South Africa’s other top player of the game, Rantie could only send his effort onto the crossbar. That was about the last time South Africa came close to scoring. Soon after, Keet pulled off a double-save to deny Slimani; first from a backheel then palming his rebound header onto the bar.
Africa’s number one team were not going to be kept out for long. Sustained pressure saw Hlatshwayo nod into his own net from a Brahimi cross. The South Africans then collapsed allowing Ghoulam to power past Manyisa and give Algeria the lead. A lead they would not forfeit, unlike Bafana Bafana, but only add onto it. Slimani’s shot went underneath Keet, who had a good game, to complete Algeria’s mini-revival. The Desert Foxes thus join Senegal at the top of Group C and are in prime position to advance.