AFCON: Algeria’s 35-match undefeated run ends after E Guinea loss

Djamel Belmadi’s title-defending side is in trouble after a surprise defeat at the Africa Cup of Nations.

Soccer Football - Africa Cup of Nations - Group E - Algeria v Equatorial Guinea - Stade de Japoma, Douala, Cameroon - January 16, 2022 Equatorial Guinea players celebrate after the match REUTERS/Thaier Al-Sudani
Equatorial Guinea players celebrate after their victory against Algeria [Thaier Al-Sudani/Reuters]

Equatorial Guinea have caused the greatest upset so far at this year’s Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON), defeating continental champions Algeria 1-0.

Algeria’s high-pressure style meant the Desert Foxes dominated play throughout much of Sunday’s game, but their efforts were in vain as none of their shots found the back of the net.

A compact and tactically rigid Equatorial Guinean side took advantage of Algeria’s sterility, with Esteban Obiang scoring the only goal of the match at the 70th minute.

This was the second disappointment for the Algerian side in the tournament, held in Cameroon, having tied with Sierra Leone in their opening match last week.

Algeria had not lost a game since 2018 and was just two games short of matching Italy’s world record of a 37-match unbeaten streak.

“Everyone was talking about our unbeaten run but now we need to focus on something else, go out and secure qualification,” said Algeria manager Djamel Belmadi.

The holders now need a win in their final group game against Ivory Coast on Thursday to have a chance of reaching the round of 16.

Sierra Leone vs Ivory Coast thriller

In the other Group E game on Sunday, Sierra Leone capitalised on a terrible goalkeeper error deep in injury time for a 2-2 draw against two-time champion Ivory Coast.

Goalkeeper Badra Ali Sangaré landed awkwardly while trying to gather a header back from one of his defenders that was going out for a corner, with the ball slipping out of his grasp and allowing Alhaji Kamara to score Sierra Leone’s equaliser in the 93rd minute.

Sierra Leone has now drawn against two heavyweights in Algeria and Ivory Coast to be unbeaten on its first AFCON appearance in 26 years.

Soccer Football - Africa Cup of Nations - Group F - Gambia v Mali - Limbe Omnisport Stadium, Limbe, Cameroon - January 16, 2022 Gambia's Ebou Adams in action with Mali's Massadio Haidara REUTERS/Mohamed Abd El Ghany
The Gambia and Mali both scored penalties that were awarded after VAR checks [Mohamed Abd El Ghany/Reuters]

Meanwhile, tournament debutants The Gambia remained at the top of Group F after converting a 90th-minute penalty for a 1-1 draw with Mali.

Both sides scored penalties that were awarded after VAR checks. Ibrahima Kone scored for Mali in the 79th minute. But the Gambia, which had earlier hit the post and the crossbar with free kicks, saved a point through Mussa Barrow in the last minute.

The Gambia is unbeaten in its first two games at a major tournament, having won against Mauritania in its opener.

In the other Sunday game in that group, Tunisia recovered convincingly from its highly contentious loss to Mali to beat Mauritania 4-0.

Tunisia was 2-0 up after just eight minutes when captain Wahbi Khazri scored the first of his two goals in the match. Hamza Mathlouthi and Seifeddine Jaziri also found the back of the net in the expected win.

On Monday, hosts Cameroon, who have already secured passage to the next round, take on Cape Verde, while Burkina Faso play bottom-of the-group Ethiopia, in the final day of Group A fixtures. Both matches kick off at 16:00 GMT.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies