Thursday was quite an eventful day at the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) as African powerhouse Ghana were the victims of Senegal’s shocking upset victory, and Algeria went a goal down — nearly two — only to come back and brush South Africa aside with a flourish in the game’s final 25 minutes.
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Ghana 1-2 Senegal
Ghana were well on their way to a strong opening day result after Marseille forward Andre Ayew converted a penalty kick in the 14th minute to give the Black Stars an early 1-0 lead. But the four-time winners were in for a fight in the second half when Senegal and Stoke City forward Mame Biram Diouf equalized with two headers in quick succession — the first off the post and back into the play, the second thumped into and empty net — in the 58th minute.
Both sides looked decent value for a point a piece, but the underdog Senegalese had other plans in mind. Moussa Sow stole all three points for his country late, late into the game as the Fenerbahce forward beat Ghanaian goalkeeper Razak Brimah with a low drive to the far post in the 94th minute after Diouf placed a square pass into his path at the top of the 18-yard-box.
Algeria 3-1 South Africa
South Africa went ahead in the 51st minute when midfielder Thuso Phala made a surging, late run into the 18-yard-box and was rewarded with a squared pass seven yards from goal. Phala took a touch to settle and fired past Algeria and Philadelphia Union goalkeeper Rais M’bolhi.
Bafana Bafana had a golden opportunity to double their lead when Tokelo Rantie stepped up to the penalty spot in the 54th minute. The Bournemouth forward hit his penalty attempt with great force, but hit the crossbar and watched in despair as the ball caromed 20 feet into the air and spun itself over the goal and out of play. This would, of course, turn out to cost the South Africans dearly as Algeria needed just a breakthrough to pull level.
El Khadra were once again gifted a way back into the game in the 67th minute as South African defender Thulani Hlatshwayo flicked with his head a failed clearance into his own net. An equalizer now in hand, Algeria continued to push for an eventual winner and only five minutes later found themselves a goal ahead as Napoli defender Faouzi Ghoulam blasted a close-range effort past Darren Keet. The scoring was completed in the 83rd minute when Sporting CP forward Islam Slimani slid a powerful effort from 17 yards out underneath the ‘keeper.
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As things stand, Algeria (+2 GD) tops Group C with Senegal (+1) hot on their heels. In the next round of Group C action, Ghana takes on Algeria (Friday, 11 am ET), while Senegal looks to continue their hot start against South Africa (Friday, 2 pm ET).
Tuesday’s AFCON schedule
Ivory Coast vs. Guinea (11 am ET)
Mali vs. Cameroon (2 pm ET)