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Saturday , December 7 2019

Zaha ‘sends’ Ivory Coast into last 8 as Mali fluff their lines

Guinea’s Mohamed Yattara (left), fights for the ball with Algeria’s Adlane Guedioura during the African Cup of Nations Round of 16 soccer match between Algeria and Guinea at 30 June Stadium in Cairo, Egypt on July 7. Algeria won 3-0. (AP)

Algeria outclass Guinea to reach quarters

SUEZ, Egypt, July 8, (RTRS): Ivory Coast forward Wilfried Zaha gave his side a 1-0 win over Mali in their Africa Cup of Nations Round of 16 match on Monday after their opponents had dominated most of the game and missed a flurry of chances.

Zaha, who had barely featured in the match until that point, took advantage as the Mali got into a terrible mess from an Ivory Coast goal kick in the 76th minute to earn his side a barely deserved win and quarter-final tie against Algeria.

Mali, unbeaten in the group stage, had played with verve and skill as they took their southern neighbours apart in the first half with Moussa Djenepo and Abdoulaye Diaby causing all sorts of trouble down the flanks and Moussa Marega a constant threat in attack.

But, as they began to tire after around an hour, Ivory Coast came back into the game. Jonathan Kodjia missed gilt-edged chance when he was one-on-one with goalkeeper Djigui Diarra but Zaha was not so forgiving minutes later.

Superbly-taken goals from Youcef Belaili and Riyad Mahrez set Algeria on the way to a comfortable 3-0 win over Guinea as they reached the Africa Cup of Nations quarter-finals, reaffirming their status as one of the favourites for the title.

While the previous five round-of-16 ties had produced a heady mixture of shocks, drama and comebacks, Sunday’s match was straightforward as Algeria, yet to concede a goal, won their fourth straight match at the tournament.

The Desert Foxes were strong in defence, intelligent in midfield, ruthless in attack and played with a swagger that suggested they believe they are on course to claim the cup again.

Belaili broke the deadlock after playing a one-two with Baghdad Bounedjah in the 24th minute and Mahrez, following some sublime control, lashed home the second just before the hour.

Substitute Adam Ounas added the third on the break in the 82nd minute, making him joint tournament top-scorer with three goals alongside Senegal’s Sadio Mane and Nigeria’s Odion Ighalo.

Algeria, whose one previous title came in 1990, will face either Ivory Coast or Mali in the quarter-finals.

They were quickly on the attack as a ball floated over the Guinea defence was chested down by Bounedjah but he fired wide.

Guinea’s attacks mainly consisted of long balls aimed towards Jose Kante but he got little change out of the Algerian defence.

A period of sustained Algeria pressure led to the first goal.

First Bounedjah shot wide from eight metres and Guinea escaped again when Ismail Bennacer produced an acrobatic volley which was saved by Ibrahima Kone.

But there was no let-off from the next superbly executed move as Belaili exchanged passes with Bounedjah before slotting a low shot past Kone from a narrow angle.

After a scrappy start to the second half, Mady Camara gave Rais Mbolhi something to do with a long-range shot which the Algeria goalkeeper turned over the bar. But Guinea were soon on the rack again.

Bennacer found Mahrez with a pass across the face of the penalty area and the Manchester City player caressed the ball past a defender before sending Kone the wrong way from 20 metres.

Algeria spent the rest of the match stroking the ball around but there was time for a third when Youcef Atal won possession, burst down the flank and laid the ball into the path of Ounas to score from close range.

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