Morocco sink plucky Namibia with late own goal
CAIRO, June 23, (RTRS): Senegal made light of the absence of suspended forward Sadio Mane to dispatch Tanzania with a convincing 2-0 win in their opening Africa Cup of Nations match on Sunday.
Keita Balde put them ahead in the first half and Krepin Diatta rifled a shot through a crowd of players for the second just after the hour to confirm Senegal’s dominance in the Group C match.
Seen as one of the teams most likely to challenge hosts and favourites Egypt for the title, Senegal were too strong and fast for Tanzania who were making their first appearance at the finals since 1980.
Senegal could easily have won by more goals if their finishing had been more accurate, with forward Mbaye Niang the main culprit. Algeria were facing Kenya in Group C later on Sunday.
The match was played in front of another sparse crowd, an unfortunate feature of the tournament in matches not involving the host nation.
Liverpool forward Mane was suspended for an accumulation of yellow cards during the qualifiers but it hardly mattered.
Niang should have put Senegal ahead in the sixth minute when he was sent clear but his shot hit the side-netting.
Kalidou Koulibaly headed over from a corner before Senegal broke the deadlock in the 28th minute.
A neat exchange of passes ended with Idrissa Gueye finding Keita and he scored with a low shot which slipped through the hands of Tanzania goalkeeper Aishi Manula at the near post.
Papa Ndiaye fired over with an acrobatic effort and then Niang missed another good chance when he curled a shot wide after being gifted the ball by the Tanzania defence. Tanzania’s passing was sloppy and they struggled to put enough attacking moves together.
Senegal continued to pour forward after halftime with Balde in the thick of things. The Inter Milan player had a header tipped over by Manula and then scuffed his effort from close range after another flowing move left him unmarked.
Senegal finally added a second in the 64th when a Tanzania clearance landed at the feet of Diatta who struck a ferocious half-volley that flew into the net from the edge of the area.
A last-minute own goal handed Morocco a narrow 1-0 victory over plucky Namibia at the Africa Cup of Nations on Sunday in a far-from-convincing start from one of the pre-tournament favourites.
Substitute Itamunua Keimune botched an attempted clearance and headed the ball into his own net at the end of a free kick from Morocco midfielder Hakim Ziyech in the 89th minute of the opening Group D game at the Al Salam Stadium.
Morocco coach Herve Renard, who has won two Cup of Nations titles, had warned that the opening game for many of the tournament favourites may be difficult and his forecast proved true as Namibia goalkeeper Lloyd Kazapua produced several key stops.
But his heroics did not extend to the last minute as Morocco took all three points in fortuitous circumstances.
The free kick evaded several defenders before the bounce caught out Keimune who inadvertently steered it past his own goalkeeper in a heartbreaking outcome for underrated Namibia, playing in just their third Cup of Nations.
Kazapua saved several efforts throughout the game, including a quick-thinking scramble with an outstretched leg in the 72nd minute, to keep Morocco at bay, with the 47th-ranked team in the world expected to have a comfortable start.
Morocco dominated a game in hot temperatures where the tempo was languid but looked increasingly desperate as the game wore on.
Renard brought on three strikers in the second half with Sofiane Boufal proving lively but also off-target with his efforts.
The other two teams in Group D — Ivory Coast and South Africa — play their opening game on Monday.
Africa Cup of Nations debutants Burundi faced Nigeria as equals and were able to show that they had quality, their captain Saido Berahino said after his side went down to narrow 1-0 defeat in their opening match.
Saturday’s Group B game appeared to be a mismatch with 89 places separating the two sides in the FIFA rankings.
Three-times African champions Nigeria, with a population of around 190 million, have taken part at six World Cups and have players scattered around Europe’s top leagues.
Burundi, with a population of around 10 million, have a squad whose players are based mainly with clubs in Africa and have never been at a major tournament. They are ranked 134th in the world by FIFA.
Even so, the team known as the Swallows in Battle created the better chances in the first half and held out until Nigeria scored in the 77th minute.
“The best thing was the way our players held their heads high against a big nation, and stepping up and playing in a big tournament, because it was tough for a lot of us, even myself,” Berahino told Reuters.
Nigeria coach Gernot Rohr was highly complimentary about Burundi’s display, something which also pleased Berahino.
“It was good from their coach, they gave us a compliment and he said we stood our ground and showed our qualities,” said the 25-year-old who played for Stoke City in the English second tier last season.
“We lacked a bit of experience but the team, the unity and the togetherness is always there.” “This is the biggest tournament we’ve ever competed in — we’ve just got to make the most of our chances, take the positives and take it to the next game.” Burundi’s squad includes players based in Kenya, Rwanda, Saudi Arabia, Zambia, Uganda, Ethiopia, Australia, Oman, Ethiopia and Algeria, plus four in Europe and one at home.
But Berahino suggested that his team mates had shown they were ready to take a step up in their careers.
“We have a lot of talented players from Burundi… and they have showed their quality. I’m sure there will be teams looking at certain players and I can be proud of them. They showed they can compete at a high level.”