The Flames on fire against Ethiopia
* The Flames next date Guinea as the Pharaohs meet Ethiopia
* African champions Senegal proved their worth as they Benin 3-1
* Voted best player at the 2021 AFCON in Cameroon, Sadio Mane scored a hat-trick
Soon after the Flames scorched Ethiopia 2-1 with both goals from Gabadinho Mhango at Bingu National Stadium in Lilongwe on Sunday, Mostafa Mohamed’s deflected strike in the 87th minute handed Egypt a slim 1-0 victory over a resolute Guinea in the opening qualifiers of next year’s Africa Cup of Nations.
Guinea were looking set to guard a draw away from home, but Mohamed snatched the three points at the Cairo International Stadium, giving new head coach Ehab Galal a perfect start in his new tenure.
The win takes Egypt second in Group D with three points, tying with Malawi and a report on CAFonline indicate that the Pharaohs duly deserved the three points as they were the more attacking side, though they struggled to have the ball inside the net.
Omar Marmoush had been a busy man in the Egyptian attacking third and he had a close opportunity with a shot flashing just inches wide. In the 37th minute, he was set up with a beautiful lofted ball by Mohamed Salah, but his rasping shot flew over the bar.
In the second half, the Egyptians continued prodding the Guinean half looking for the opener. They had a close opportunity in the 49th minute when Mo Salah curled a freekick beyond the wall but it was punched away by the keeper. Hamdi Fathi picked the rebound but his shot was deflected for a corner.
Guinea, who were mostly forced to be on the defending end, had a rare chance in the 54th minute when Egypt lost the ball cheaply and play quickly turned against them.
The ball was played out to Thierno Barry, but his shot on the volley went just wide with keeper Mohamed Abou Gabal left rooted to his spot.
Having survived the scare, Egypt continued with their search for a goal and in the 58th minute, Omar Gaber forced the Guinean keeper to a good reaction save.
A corner was defended to his path and the Pyramids defender took on a first time shot from range, which was punched away by the keeper.
The North African giants continued playing the ball into the Guinean half knocking on the door for an opening goal. It finally opened up for them in the 87th minute when Mohamed found the back of the net.
A cross from Ibrahim Adel was deflected to his path and he took on a shot which came off Antoine Conte, taking it further away from keeper Ibrahim Kone and dinking to the bottom left corner.
The Egyptians now switch their attention to the second group match against Ethiopia on Thursday while Guinea hope to bounce back when they face Malawi, who opened their 2023 AFCON qualifications account on a good note through Gabadinho’s two goals in the first half.
The Orlando Pirates striker netted the opening goal of the match as early as the 10th minute after converting a penalty kick to put the hosts ahead.
Gabadinho scored again from the spot to double the advantage for Malawi after defender Mignot Debebe committed a foul inside the penalty box leading to a caution.
Gabadinho nearly got a hat-trick in the second half but his effort was saved by Fasil Gebremichael before Abubeker Nasir scored from the spot to pull one back for Ethiopia in the 68th minute.
African champions Senegal proved their worth as they seek a return to defend their AFCON title after a well worked 3-1 victory over Benin in their first match.
Voted best player at the just concluded AFCON finals in Cameroon, Sadio Mane was Senegal’s star man as he scored a hat-trick, including two penalties to help Senegal to the important victory at home.
Mane broke the deadlock after 10 minutes when he converted from the penalty spot after a handball inside the box. The goal boosted Senegal’s confidence and Mane doubled the tally minutes later after a good combination with Pope Matar Sarr.
His initial shot was blocked but on the second bite of the cherry, he ensured he didn’t make a mistake.
The Beninese tried to get back into the game and had chances but Tidjani Anane and Steve Mounié saw their efforts stopped by Edouard Mendy.
Senegal continued to dominate in the second half. From a deep pass, Ismaila Sarr picked the ball inside the box but was hacked down by the Beninese goalkeeper. Mane stood over the spot kick and made no mistake.
Benin’s day went from bad to worse when a few minutes later, Sessi D’Almeida was red carded for stopping Mané as the last man in defense as he sped off towards goal.
Benin pulled one back with four minutes left When Junior Olaïtan found the back of the net. However, it only counted for consolation.
Mauritania 3-0 Sudan
Aboubakar Kamara scored a first half brace to help Mauritania beat Sudan 3-0 in their opening Group I match at the State Olympique in Nouakchott on Saturday.
Abdallahi Mahmoud added a third mate in the second half to give Mauritania a perfect start and new coach Amir Abdou three massive points as he looks for a second consecutive Cup of Nations appearance as coach.
Abdou was appointed to head the Mauritanian national team after his impresssive performance with Comoros last January in Cameroon and the victory on Saturday puts him in a perfect bounce on the road to the 2023 showpiece.
Kamara broke the deadlock in the 27th minute from the penalty spot to give his side the start they yearned for after a good start.
Three minutes later, the burly goal poacher doubled his tally and that of his side finishing off a pass from Mouhamed Soueid.
With a two goal cushion, the home side was confident and played with more control despite Susan’s attempt to get a way back into the contest.
In the second half, the Sudanese Falcons of Jediane returned with fire under their boots but were thwarted by an organized Mauritania.
With 13 minutes left on the clock, Mahmoud wrapped up the massive win to ascertain the three points remained in Nouakchott.
Mauritania now lead the group with three points, ahead of Gabon on goals after the latter beat DR Congo by a slim 1-0 margin.
Elsewhere in Group J, Botswana matched Tunisia boot-for-boot after holding the Carthage Eagles to a scoreless draw at Francistown Stadium.
The first half belonged to Tunisia whose dominance couldn’t pay off as Botswana shot stopper Goitseone Phoko made some key stops to deny them.
The Zebras came back from the break the stronger side but they could not exploit the Tunisian defence, having just a shot on target in the process.
Tunisia lead the Group with four points after two matches and will face their Northern African rivals Libya in the next two rounds in September.
Algeria 2-0 Uganda
Algeria, the 2019 African champions started off their campaign with an important 2-0 win at home against Uganda.
Algeria head coach Djamel Belmadi came into the match with a much changed team from the one that played in the qualifiers for the 2022 Qatar FIFA World Cup, but they had to contend with a tactically organized Ugandan side.
The Algerians were dangerous from the onset but struggled to break the Ugandan defense in the opening exchanges.
They were finally rewarded for their strong start in the 28th minute through Aissa Mandi who followed up a rebound after the Ugandan keeper saved a freekick from Youcef Belaïli.
Uganda were given a way back into the match when they were awarded a penalty just before halftime when Rachid Ghazal’s dangerous tackle put down a Ugandan striker.
However, Faruk Miya missed from the spot after goalkeeper Mustapha Zeghba went the right way to keep out the effort.
In the second half, the Algerians continued to play a high line of attack but were unable to add a second with Uganda defending well.
Les Fennecs had to wait until the 80th minute to put the game to safety with a second goal.
The impressive Belaili, dribbled past three players and struck a shot that left no chance for the Ugandan goalkeeper.
Mali 4-0 Congo
Mali cruised to an emphatic 4-0 victory over Congo at the Stade du 26 Mars in Bamako on Saturday in which France-based striker El Bilal Toure grabbed a brace to steer his country to the impressive showing during the Group G match in the capital city.
The Eagles completed the rout of the Red Devils in the first half as they thumped them to surpass Gambia standings in Group G.
Ghana, Angola held
Angola came from behind to earn a point against Madagascar to maintain their unbeaten start while Central African Republic rallied to hold the Black Stars to a 1-1 on Sunday.
The Palancas Negras kept their momentum intact after drawing 1-1 at the Stade Municipal Mahamasina in Antananarivo to go level on points with Ghana at the top of group.
The first-half was virtually balanced as both teams took an equal share of the ball possession and created few decent opportunities.
Madagascar went ahead in the game after 36 minutes following a goal by Njiva Rakotoharimalala but the lead was cancelled moments later through Gelson Dala.
The Palancas Negras were the better team in the second half having seen more of the ball but failed to put the ball past goalkeeper Nina Razakanirina.
Razakanirina made six important saves to keep the match at 1-1 in the end as the Barea picked their first point in the qualifications.
Meanwhile, Central African Republic punched above themselves to claim a point against Ghana after holding them to a 1-1 stalemate.
The Wild Beasts equalised before halftime after conceding the first goal after 17 minutes into the match at the Estadio 11 de Novembro in Luanda, Angola.
The Black Stars drew the first blood of the match in the 17th minute with a beautiful goal from Mohammed Kudus whose curled shot from the edge of the box beat goalkeeper Aladun Kalimba.
Central Africa levelled matters four minutes from recess after Karl Namnganda got the equalising with a powerful left shot after being played through by Brad Thomas Pirioua.
The second half of the encounter produced no goals as both teams failed to register a single shot on target.
Ghana continue to lead Group E on goals difference as they are level on four points with Angola on four points while Central Africa and Madagascar have one point apiece.
Angola faces Ghana in a double-header in matchday three and four in September while Madagascar will have to tackle Central African Republic.