Algeria survives scare at African Cup, Ghana doesn’t
MONGOMO, Equatorial Guinea (AP) — Tournament favorite Algeria avoided an unpleasant surprise at the African Cup of Nations on Monday. Four-time champion Ghana did not.
Group C kicked off in Mongomo with two comebacks as Algeria went behind and then saw South Africa miss a penalty before rallying for a 3-1 win to open its campaign.
While Algeria took time to get going in far-eastern Equatorial Guinea, Ghana lost its way after leading early against Senegal. The Senegalese ensured one of the tournament’s toughest groups was full of intrigue by clinching a 2-1 win over the Black Stars with substitute Moussa Sow’s stoppage-time winner.
Algeria — by far Africa’s best team at last year’s World Cup — only lived up to its pre-tournament hype in the final 20 minutes of its African Cup opener.
Thuso Phala finished a clever South African move for the surprise lead at Mongomo Stadium. But Tokelo Rantie missed a penalty three minute later, giving Algeria the impetus it needed to come back.
The Algerians forced an own goal by Thulani Hlatshwayo soon after and, confidence restored, fired in two more through Faouzi Ghoulam and Islam Slimani to end up relieved winners.
“We had a bad 10 minutes,” Algeria coach Christian Gourcuff said.
In fact, Algeria had a pretty poor first 45 as South Africa created the far-better chances. And if Rantie’s penalty was inches lower at the start of the second, it would have been a tough task for the Algerians.
While Algeria moved top of Group C, Ghana found itself under early pressure in its search for a long-awaited title after Senegal muscled its way to a late victory in the first game in Mongomo.
Ghana captain Asamoah Gyan sat out while he recovers from a mild bout of malaria, and watched as a spectator in the dugout when Andre Ayew stroked home a penalty in the 14th minute to give the Ghanaians reward for a bright start.
Things changed drastically in the second half.
Senegal found its momentum and was level when Mame Biram Diouf headed against the post and reacted quickest to score from the rebound.
Like Algeria, Senegal found life in the closing stages but left it right to the very end to secure its crucial opening victory, when Sow hit home with what was effectively the last kick of the match.
“It’s good to have three points but nothing is done yet,” Senegal coach Alain Giresse said.
Gerald Imray is on Twitter at www.twitter.com/GeraldImrayAP