Douala, Cameroon ( Associated Press) — Mohamed Salah was kept in check as Egypt lost 1-0 to Nigeria on Tuesday on a brilliant goal from Kelechi Iheanacho in their first game at the African Cup of Nations.
Riyad Mahrez also had a rough day as he and his Algerian teammates scored several goals to open their title defense with a surprise 0-0 draw with Mino Sierra Leone, playing in their first major tournament in 26 years. missed opportunities to do so.
The results threw some pre-tournament predictions out the window at the start of the third day at the African Cup in Cameroon. If there was any team to watch out for in the tournament it was Algeria, who have been running for 40 games unbeaten since 2018. And if there was one player to watch out for, it was Salah, the Premier League’s leading scorer, Liverpool, who claims to be the best. in the world now.
It might be time to reconsider a bit.
Although this is the beginning of the tournament. The top two teams in each group automatically progress to the knockout stages and the best part of the tournament is still to be played.
As Algeria squandered opportunity after opportunity in their Group E opener in Douala, coach Jamel Belmadi came out in split rage. When Algeria turned down their last opportunity in the final act in injury time, the 2019 African Cup-winning coach fell to his knees and slammed his hands to the ground.
Sierra Leone is playing its first African Cup since 1996. But Algeria found no way ahead of Sierra Leone goalkeeper Mohamed Kamara, who celebrated the result as if it were a tournament win. Players from the Sierra Leone squad finally ran from bench to field to attend the ceremony.
Sierra Leone, the 22-year-old goalkeeper who plays for the East End Lions in Freetown, outperformed Manchester City’s Mahrez and the rest of Algeria’s powerful forward line for just one day.
There were countless opportunities in Algeria. Yasin Brahimi made two shots right on Kamara at the start of the second half. Algerian substitute Sofiane Bendebka could not make his attempt on target with Kamara on the ground after making another save in the 67th minute.
Mahrez was denied when Kamra brilliantly got his fingers through for a low shot that was destined for the bottom corner in the final 10 minutes.
Algeria surrounded Sierra Leone for most of the second half, but Belmadi’s frustration flared up when striker Baghdad Bounezah, another option, went for the final miss in the arms of a weak and straight Kamara.
Nigeria were about to be a team in trouble after last month sacking coach Gernot Rohr and installing Augustine Aguavon as his replacement on an interim basis. Nigeria are also without top striker Victor Osimhen of Napoli and two other leading forwards for the tournament.
Ihanacho, who has been warming the bench at Leicester in recent months, seized his chance in the tournament’s opening meeting of the two heavyweights to start Group D. He controlled a cross from Moses Simon and, in the same move, fired a quick shot in the upper right corner for the winner of Nigeria in the 30th minute.
Salah had a real chance for Egypt late in the game, but Nigeria goalkeeper Maduka Okoye came out and blocked Salah’s shot with his left foot.
Aguavón said the game plan was relatively simple: “Try to keep Salah off the ball and play high-pressure football at the other end.”
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