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Wednesday , September 30 2020

Kodjia goal hands Ivorians victory in Cup of Nations opener

Ivory Coast’s Max Gradel (left), and South Africa’s Thamsanqa Mkhize fight for the ball during the African Cup of Nations Group D soccer match between Ivory Coast and South Africa in Al Salam Stadium in Cairo, Egypt on June 24. (AP)

Angola hit back to force draw with uninspiring Tunisia

CAIRO, June 24, (RTRS): Striker Jonathan Kodjia struck 26 minutes from time to hand the Ivory Coast a 1-0 win over South Africa as the two former champions kicked off their Africa Cup of Nations campaign in searing heat on Monday.

Kodjia squandered several earlier chances before finally breaking the deadlock in the 64th minute of the Group D match at the Al Salam Stadium in the capital’s suburbs.  The goal was scored at the end of a swift move out of defence by the Ivorians.

It took just two passes to find the forward, who was goalside of the defence and had only the keeper to beat.

Kodjia had been in a similar position in the first half but instead of placing the ball, he blasted it to allow South Africa goalkeeper Ronwen Williams to come up with a brilliant close-range stop in the 32nd minute.

The Aston Villa striker was also twice set up with goal scoring chances in the opening 11 minutes, but both times failed to get a touch.

The Ivorians also struck the woodwork just after the half hour mark as Nicolas Pepe curled a left-footed effort on the crossbar.

Pepe had another set piece chance two minutes from time but Williams made a finger-tip stop to deny the Ivorians a second.  With the temperature in the stadium touching 36 degrees Celsius, it stifled the tempo of what was a largely scrappy affair.

South Africa, who won their only Cup of Nations title in 1996, were unable to get their short passing game going and only had one half chance which captain Thulani Hlatshwayo headed wide of goal.

Two-time winners Ivory Coast join Morocco, who edged Namibia with a last gasp goal on Sunday, at the top of the group standings.

The Ivorians next meet Morocco on Friday while South Africa take on neighbours Namibia at the same venue.

Angola salvaged a surprise but deserved 1-1 draw against an uninspired Tunisia after Djalma Campos cancelled out a Youssef Msakni penalty in their Africa Cup of Nations opener ..

Tunisia went ahead against the run of play in the 34th minute of the Group E match when Msakni fired his spot kick into the roof of the net after Naim Sliti was upended by Salomao Paizo.

But Tunisia, firm favourites to win the group, failed to build on the lead and Djalma made them pay by snapping up a rebound after Tunisia goalkeeper Farouk Ben Mustapha failed to hold a shot in the 73rd minute.

Mali and Mauritania were meeting later on Monday in the second half of a double bill at the Suez Army stadium.

Riyad Mahrez led Algeria to a comfortable 2-0 victory over Kenya as they opened their Africa Cup of Nations finals campaign with a competent display in their Group C match .

Captain Mahrez netted the second goal just before halftime after striker Baghdad Bounedjah had opened the scoring with a 34th minute penalty.

Kenya midfielder Dennis Odhiambo gave away the spot kick with an errant tackle on Youcef Atal, who made a run down the right wing before cutting inside and forcing the Kenyan into a clumsy attempt to stop him.

Mahrez netted the second nine minutes later as he ghosted unmarked into the penalty area to lash in a pass that was pulled back from the byline.

Mahrez’s powerful shot took a deflection off Kenya fullback Aboud Omar as it flew into the net.

It was as much as Algeria deserved with an overwhelming showing against the Kenyans, who looked largely outclassed on their return to the finals for the first time in 15 years.

Algeria’s strong pressing forced Kenya to constantly turn over possession and never gave them an opportunity to create any chances. Kenya’s only promising attack came with just six minutes left when Ayub Timbe’s run down the right wing set up a chance for Michael Olunga but he was thwarted by the Algerian defence.

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