Match­day One thrills and spills as stars daz­zle

The Star Early Edition - - SPORT -

THE open­ing matches in the Africa Cup of Na­tions (Af­con) were cagey af­fairs as teams sized each other up. Njabulo Ngidi, who at­tended Group Amatches in Li­bre­ville as well as the Group D clashes in Port-Gentil, picks the high­lights of match day one.

Best Goal

Ben­jamin Moukandjo’s stun­ning free-kick for Cameroon against Burk­ina Faso came a close sec­ond. But Riyad Mahrez takes it with his first goal against Zim­babwe that showed why the Al­ge­rian is Africa’s Foot­baller of the Year. Mahrez re­ceived the ball from Is­lam Sli­mani who didn’t have much sup­port. The Le­ices­ter City play­maker didn’t need any sup­port, squeez­ing the ball past four de­fend­ers and the goal­keeper with a bril­liant curler into the back of the net.

Best Save

If it wasn’t for Al­ge­ria goal­keeper, Rais M’Bolhi, Khama Bil­liat could have scored the goal of the tour­na­ment. Bil­liat weaved his magic on the Desert Foxes’ de­fence, twist­ing and turn­ing Aissa Mandi be­fore un­leash­ing a shot in­side the small box. M’Bolhi used his body well to cover the goals and then stretched out his hand to pro­duce a save to deny Bil­liat what would have been a mem­o­rable goal.

Best Cel­e­bra­tion

The Demo­cratic Repub­lic of Congo (DRC) had the best cel­e­bra­tion even with­out Robert Kidi­aba. The 40-year-old goal­keeper is fa­mous for his bum bounce goal cel­e­bra­tion. Ju­nior Ka­bananga pulled out his own moves af­ter scor­ing in the DRC’s 1-0 win over Morocco. The cen­tre-for­ward ran onto the half­way mark, jumped over the ad­ver­tis­ing board to spank the air with his left arm as he shuf­fled side­ways.

Best Match

The open­ing game of this tour­na­ment be­tween Gabon and debu­tants Guinea-Bis­sau was un­der­whelm­ing. It took Al­ge­ria and Zim­babwe to light up the Af­con with an en­ter­tain­ing spec­ta­cle in Franceville. The Al­ge­ri­ans took the lead through Riyad Mahrez’s bril­liance. The War­riors re­sponded through Ku­dak­washe Ma­hachi and Nyasha Mush­weki be­fore Mahrez helped Al­ge­ria steal a point at the death. Zim­babwe could have won this match if they were more clin­i­cal as they eas­ily opened up the Desert Foxes’ de­fence but failed to find the killer touch. Sene­gal’s 2-0 win over Tu­nisia takes sec­ond place be­cause of the drama the thrilling sec­ond half dished up.

Mem­o­rable Mo­ment

Zez­inho came with the as­sist, whip­ping a per­fect ball into Gabon’s box. Juary Soares did the rest, di­rect­ing the ball with his head past Di­dier Ovono to score a mem­o­rable goal for the tour­na­ment’s debu­tants, Guinea-Bis­sau. That was not only the small na­tion’s first goal at this tour­na­ment but it also gave them their first point, stun­ning the hosts in the fi­nal minute of the match.

Best Crowd

The Mali fans at Stade de Port-Gentil cre­ated an elec­tric at­mos­phere as the Ea­gles took on Egypt, who were mak­ing a re­turn to the Af­con af­ter a seven-year ab­sence. Their drums dom­i­nated the sta­dium, even mak­ing the small por­tion of Egyp­tian fans dance to it. They loudly backed their team, dressed colour­fully in the bright yel­low of Mali.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa

© PressReader. All rights reserved.