AFCON 2017: Algeria, Zimbabwe crash out

THE AFRICAN Player of the Year will play no further part in this edition of the Africa Cup of Nations.

.   Despite a spirited performance against group-winner Senegal in Franceville, Riyad Mahrez and his Algeria teammates leave Gabon without a win to their name.

It was not supposed to end like this. Having made the last 16 of the 2014 World Cup, this golden generation had arrived in Gabon hoping to lift the AFCON trophy for the first time since 1990.

Instead it is Senegal’s Lions of Teranga that progress from Group B unbeaten, after goals from Papa Kouly Diop and Moussa Sow cancelled out a brace from Mahrez’s Leicester City teammate, Islam Slimani.

As it happened, even victory would not have seen the Desert Warriors through to the quarterfinals.

Coach Georges Leekens had glumly admitted his players no longer had their destiny in their own hands after failing to beat unfancied Zimbabwe and Tunisia   and so it proved, as events elsewhere consigned Algeria to an early exit.

The air of futility that could have lent to the occasion did not impact upon the action itself.

Despite Senegal coach, Alou Cisse, making 10 changes with qualification guaranteed, both sides started with urgency, and barely 10 minutes had passed before the game had its first goal.

Acquired from Sporting CP for over US$30 million, Slimani is another big name this tournament will miss, and the Leicester City frontman was a constant menace, meeting a measured cross from Sofiane Hanni on the volley after deft play down the left.

Senegal responded   showcasing a strength in depth that could see Cisse’s men go far   as Diop’s volley bounced into the ground and past the despairing Malik Asselah just before half time.

At that stage, the Algerian contingent could not have been unaware of proceedings in Libreville, but both sets of players re-entered the field for the second period with renewed vigour.

Mahrez   directly involved in five of the past eight AFCON goals scored by Algeria   looked determined to say goodbye on a high, teeing up Slimani for his second of the night.

There were initially doubts the ball had crossed the line but back came Senegal, and barely two minutes had passed before stand-in striker Moussa Sow had levelled things, capitalising on a loose ball on the edge of the penalty area to fire home a low drive.

Slipped through by Hanni once again, Slimani could have won it for Algeria with just over 10 minutes to play   sealing his hat-trick in the process   but dragged his shot just inches wide with only the keeper to beat.

Victory in truth would only have papered over the cracks of an underwhelming tournament, and the Fennec Foxes go home with their tails between their legs.

Having rested the key players including Cheikhou Kouyate, Henri Saivet and Sadio Mane, Senegal’s Lions of Teranga march on to a quarterfinal tie against Cameroon in Franceville. – CNN


January 2017
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