Mahrez comes to Algeria's rescue
Riyad Mahrez scored twice, but Algeria could only draw with underdogs Zimbabwe while Senegal got the first win of the African Nations Cup (ANC) yesterday morning (Singapore time).
Mahrez put Algeria ahead in the Group B opener in Franceville in south-eastern Gabon, but then needed to score a late equaliser to secure a 2-2 draw for one of the tournament favourites.
Senegal, another fancied side thanks to their status as the top-ranked African team in the Fifa rankings, saw Liverpool winger Sadio Mane set them on their way to a 2-0 victory against Tunisia. That result left them in control of the group while Algeria were left bemoaning a missed opportunity.
"We have only ourselves to blame. We need to keep working and play well in the second match against Tunisia," said Leicester City star Mahrez.
It was a cracking match between Algeria and rank outsiders Zimbabwe, with Mahrez curling in a fine early opener.
The Warriors, whose build-up to the Finals was overshadowed by a row over bonuses, quickly equalised when Kudakwashe Mahachi fired in and they then went ahead with a penalty before the half-hour mark scored by Nyasha Mushekwi.
Algeria hit the bar twice in the second half, once through Ramy Bensebaini and then Elisha Muroiwa who struck the frame of his own goal as he attempted to clear a cross.
They were just eight minutes away from a humiliating defeat before Mahrez drove in from 20 metres to make it 2-2.
Mane came third in the African Player of the Year awards behind winner Mahrez and Gabon's Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
And after those two had scored in their countries' opening games, Mane followed their example by getting the breakthrough against Tunisia.
He sent Tunisian goalkeeper Aymen Mathlouthi the wrong way from the spot after Aymen Abdennour had brought down Cheikhou Kouyate.
Kara Mbodj then soared above the Tunisian defence to head home from a corner and make it 2-0 on the half-hour.
Mbodj struck his own bar in the second half while Ismaila Sarr nearly added to Senegal's lead, hitting the frame of the goal with a cross. - AFP