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Mane scores in Senegal’s victory over Tunisia, Algeria held

FRANCEVILLE: Senegal's Sadio Mane converted a 10th minute penalty to send them on their way to a 2-0 victory over Tunisia and top place in Group C at the African Nations Cup on Sunday.

Centre back Kara Mbodji scored the second goal on the half-hour as Senegal became the first team to register a win at the tournament after the first three games all ended in draws.

But the victory was far from convincing as Tunisia missed several chances, notably in a dominant second-half performance.

Senegal made the perfect start as Tunisia's experienced centre back Aymen Abdennour, caught for pace with a sliding tackle, took out the feet of captain Cheikhou Kouyate from under him, to give away an early penalty.

Africa's most expensive footballer Mane, who moved to Liverpool from Southampton for a reported 34 million pounds ($40.76 million) last June, tucked away the kick.

The lead was doubled on the half-hour mark when Mbodji rose magestically above the Tunisia defence to power home a header from a corner as Senegal, the top-ranked African team, sought to confirm their status as one of the tournament favourites.

By then, Tunisia striker Ahmed Akaichi had already squandered two good chances and the profligacy in front of goal continued in the second half with Youssef Msakni particularly wasteful.

Senegal's defence looked poorly organised and even contrived to help the Tunisians out of their misery when Mbodji hammered an attempted clearance against his own woodwork in the 69th minute.

There was also a stunning save from Senegal goalkeeper Abdoulaye Diallo to deny Msakni 12 minutes from time.

But Senegal also had chances on the counter-attack. Substitute Ismaila Sarr hit the crossbar, straight after coming on as a substitute, and Mane failed to take a good opportunity in the last 10 minutes.

Earlier at the Stade de Franceville, Riyad Mahrez scored twice but Algeria could only draw with outsiders Zimbabwe in the opening match in Group B.

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.

"We only have ourselves to blame. We need to keep working and play well in the second match against Tunisia," said Leicester City star Mahrez.

A day after hosts Gabon were held to a 1-1 draw by minnows Guinea-Bissau in the capital Libreville as the tournament got underway, there was a sparse crowd as the action moved to the 20,000-seat stadium in Franceville.

Those who were there witnessed 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 when Elisha Muroiwa 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 yards to make it 2-2.

"We knew the first match was going to be difficult," added Mahrez.

"We didn't perform in the first half but played very well in the second half and should have scored several more goals."

Meanwhile, Zimbabwe coach Callisto Pasuwa was delighted to see his side prove they could mix it with the continent's supposed finest.

"When I was asked who was the favourite and said Zimbabwe, everyone laughed at me. But in this group there is no small team," he said.

"I hope the point obtained here will motivate my players to do even better in our next match against Senegal."


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