Philip Lawer Alimo, International Freelance Sports Journalist
Cairo, June 24, 2019 – Algeria’s Les Fennecs started their African Cup of Nations campaign with a 2-0 win over the Harambee Stars of Kenya at the June 30 Stadium in Cairo on Sunday.
Baghdad Bounedjah’s penalty and a deflected strike from Manchester City Winger Riyad Mahrez was enough to give the desert foxes the well-deserved victory. A meandering quick run from Youcef Atal was stopped by a poor tackle from Kenya’s defender Dennis Odhiambo inside the 18-yard box. Bounedjah made no mistake from the resulting spot kick to give Algeria the lead in the 34th minute of the game.
Mahrez doubled the lead two minutes before the first-half when his shot was deflected by Omar, beating goalkeeper Patrick Matasi in the process. After the interval, the Harambee Stars were more of a threat and the better side, but failed to test Algeria goalkeeper Rais M’Bolhi or create any meaningful goal scoring opportunity.
Meanwhile, the Teranga Lions wasted no time to reinforce their status as Africa’s best ranked nation, beating the Taifa Stars of Tanzania by two goals to nil. Senegal dominated the match from gun to tape and did not miss Liverpool forward Sadio Mane, who was suspended for the game.
Keita Balde opened the scoring after 27 minutes of play, finishing off a swift counterattack from one end of the field to the other by driving his shot into the bottom corner to beat Tanzania keeper Aishi Manula. The Taifa Stars clearly struggled against Africa’s top-ranked nation as expected.
Club Brugge Midfielder Krepin Diatta, playing his second competitive game for the Teranga Lions powered a screamer from 35 yards outside the area to double the lead 2-0 in the 64th minute.
Finally, Keimune’s own goal earned the Atlas Lions of Morocco a slim win over the Brave Warriors of Namibia. Namibia were denied a memorable start after striker Itamunua scored on the wrong side of the field in the last minute, having just come on as a substitute in the 80th minute at the Al Salam Stadium in Cairo on Sunday.
The Brave Warriors looked set to collect a valuable point against Coach Herve Renard’s men, but Keimune headed the ball into his own net with only two minutes left on the clock as he tried to defend a Hakim Ziyech free kick.
The Southern Africans held their own against the Moroccans for most of the game before the single moment of defensive error gifted the Atlas Lions three important points.