Riyad Mahrez stars but Algeria held by Zimbabwe
Africa Cup of Nations Group B, Stade de Franceville - Algeria 2 (Mahrez 13, 82) Zimbabwe 2 (Mahachi 17, Mushekwi, 29 (p))
Riyad Mahrez scored twice as Algeria were held to a 2-2 draw by Zimbabwe in their Africa Cup of Nations Group B opener in Franceville.
In a pulsating first half, Khama Billiat struck the post with a long-range effort before the Desert Foxes took the lead courtesy of a stunning strike from Leicester striker Mahrez.
But the Warriors, ranked 103 in the world, dominated the rest of the half and equalised soon after from Kudakwashe Mahachi’s fine strike before a penalty by Nyasha Mushekwi gave them the lead.
The Algerians dominated the second period as their opponents sat back with Ramy Bensebaini's header hitting the bar and Mahrez denied a penalty after being brought down by keeper Tatenda Mkuruva.
And they got their reward late on through Mahrez’s long-range effort, which keeper Mkuruva should have kept out, to clinch a point.
Did the Zimbabweans get their tactics wrong in the second half? Callisto Pasuwa’s side were brilliant in the first period with their swift counter attacking and high tempo game. But they switched to a defensive style after the break to try and hold onto their lead which ultimately cost them a shock victory. The Algerians mounted a wave of attacks and eventually got their reward through Mahrez’s equaliser.
MAN OF THE MATCH
Raïs M'Bolhi (Algeria): The goalkeeper kept his side in the game with a string of world class saves. He denied the brilliant Billiat in both halves with three wonderful stops, including clawing the ball around the post to keep out a goal-bound effort.
10’ - ASTONISHING EFFORT! The corner is cleared and falls to Billiat, who lashes a thunderous half volley which the keeper gets a hand to and it hits the post!
13' - GOAL! Algeria 1-0 Zimbabwe: Mahrez collects the ball in the area and from a tight angle, curls it into the far corner past the despairing dive of the keeper.
17’ - GOAL! Algeria 1-1 Zimbabwe: A neat passing move ends in Mahachi knocking the ball past the defender and firing in a low shot from just inside the area which nestles in the corner. Brilliant strike, the Warriors hit back straight away.
22’ - GREAT SAVE! Mushekwi holds the ball up in the box, lays it off to Billiat whose fierce drive is somehow kept out by Mbolhi.
29’ - GOAL! Algeria 1-2 Zimbabwe: Mushekwi sends the keeper the wrong way with his spot-kick, placing it into the left hand side of the goal to put the Warriors ahead.
53’ - GREAT SAVE! Billiat jinks past the defence and fires in a goal-bound effort which is brilliantly turned around the post by Mbolhi.
58’ – WOODWORK! Mushekwi puts the ball behind for a corner. The set piece is whipped in and Bensebaini's header rattles the crossbar.
59’ - PENALTY SHOUT! Mahrez is brought down by the onrushing Mkuruva, who has gone down injured. The keeper is fortunate to escape punishment for clattering into the striker.
73’ - CLOSE! Muroiwa nearly concedes an own goal by trying to clear the ball with his knee which hits the crossbar.
82’ - GOAL! Algeria 2-2 Zimbabwe: Mahrez equalises with a long range strike which goes straight through the keeper who should have done better with that.
Zimbabwe remain unbeaten against Algeria having beaten them in the 2004 Africa Cup of Nations in the previous meeting between the two sides.