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AFCON Day 11: Ghana, Algeria survive Group of Death

Photo by AFP

Photo by AFP

In an entertaining night in the Africa Cup of Nations, the Desert Warriors hunted the Lions of Teranga to qualify to the quarter-finals, surviving the ‘Group of Death’ with .

XI: Coundoul (c) – Djilobodji, L. Sane, Mbodji, M’Bengue – Gueye, Kouyate – Badji, Diop, Mane; Diouf.

XI: M’Bolhi – Mandi, Bougherra (c), Medjani, Ghoulam – Feghouli, Taider, Bentaleb, Mahrez – Brahimi – Soudani

First half

The Algerians provided a top notch defensive performance holding the Senegalese attack from finding the net. We waited no more than two minutes to get into the thick of the action when Feghouli wasted a glorious chance after Djilobodji – the last man for the Senegalese – took a reckless touch in front of Feghouli and Soudani. The latter sent in Feghouli one-on-one with the keeper with a well-weighted ball but the Valencia man hesitated and spurned a great chance. 

The Senegalese defence continued its sloppy performance letting Les Verts score the opening goal. After a foul on the half way line, Bougherra picked Mahrez with a brilliant long pass. The Leicester City midfielder beat the offside trap leaving his marker – Mbodji – watching and finished coolly putting the ball under Coundoul’s hands. 

Algeria broke on the counter after 21 minutes with Brahimi on the ball and the Porto man found Soudani at the edge of the area who lashed one forcing Coundoul to make a good save. The rhythm of the game rhythm was disrupted because of the frequent stops in play due to fouls from both sides. 

Later on in the match, M’Bengue went down from a rough aerial clash with Mandi. The Senegalese was covered in blood straight after, and he went to the sidelines to receive treatment but failed to continue, being replaced three minutes later by Souaré. In the 32nd minute, Djilobodji curled one from a direct free-kick outside the box, he wanted to exploit the untidy Algerian wall, however the ball just went wide with M’Bolhi watching. 

Nearly five minutes from the half-time break, M’Bolhi saved another free-kick off Diouf’s head just outside the 6-yard box and immediately sent Mahrez on a dangerous counter, but his low cross went out for a corner. Sane was given a yellow two minutes after when he brought down Soudani at the edge of the box. Brahimi tried to curl the ball into the net but it went just over the crossbar. Just before the whistle, M’Bolhi’s error was nearly exploited when he failed to handle Gueye’s shot but Bougherra cleared the ball away ending the first half with one goal lead for the Algerians.

Second half

The second half started where the first half ended with Algeria defending their lead and trying to catch Senegal on the counter with their dangerous front trio (Brahimi, Mahrez and Soudani). After four minutes, Medjani committed another free-kick outside the area and this time Souare stepped up to take it but M’Bolhi saved it without much trouble.

The Lions of Teranga turned on the pressure and manager Alain Giresse brought on Newcastle striker Papiss Cissé in place of Diouf. The Algerians were forced to defend numerous corners and free-kicks and block some dangerous shots however, no clear cut chances were created by Senegal. The Algerian team were doing their defensive duties except for Soudani who began showing signs of fatigue when he failed to connect with Mahrez’s pass in the only counter attack created by Algeria in the first 20 minutes.

At the 68th minute mark, a shocking substitution gesture was made by Brahimi to his manager Gourcuff to indicate that he was injured. Brahimi was holding his back and Mahdi Lacen was brought on as a replacement. With 15 minutes left on the clock and against the run of play, Saphir Taider was about to add his side’s second but his shot was saved by Coundou. Mahrez connected with the rebound but the shot was blocked heroically.

In the 82nd minute, the Tottenham youngster Nabil Bentaleb finally added the second when he smashed a cracking shot with his left foot after he received Feghouli’s pass unmarked at the edge of the box.

The Desert Warriors continued their strong defensive performance till the end and secured their spot in the knockout stages with a 2-0 win.

Ghana 2-1

In Mongomo, Ghana left it late again to secure the win against the Bafana.

South Africa XI: Khuzwayo; Ngcongca, Coetzee, Mathoho, Matlaba; Phala, Furman, Jali, Masango; Ndulula, Rantie.

Ghana XI: Braimah; Afful, Amartey, Mensah, Baba; Atsu, Acquah, Wakaso, A. Ayew; Gyan, J. Ayew.

The South Africans started the game lively and could have lead twice before Mandla Masango took the lead with a beautiful volley that crept just under the crossbar from 20 yards out. The Black Stars fought for the equaliser in the first half but failed to convert any of the chances created in the first 45 minutes.

In the second half, Ghana continued to look dangerous with Gyan again being the main threat for them. The Black Stars had to wait until the 73rd minute to deliver the equalizer when John Boye converted Andre Ayew’s scuffed shot across the opposition’s penalty box with a neat left-footed shot into the net.

With just 7 minutes to go Ghana added their second and the eventual winner by no other than Andre Ayew whose header gave Ghana first spot in Group C to cruise into the knockout stages.

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