African champions Algeria extended their unbeaten run to 21 matches on Thursday night in Algiers with a 3-1 win over Zimbabwe in their latest 2021 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier.
The result means Algeria – who lifted the trophy in Egypt last year – have won all three of their Group H matches and are five points clear at the top of the standings.
It was one of 10 fixtures played on Thursday as teams continued their bid to reach the Nations Cup finals which will be held in Cameroon in 2022.
Algeria 3 Zimbabwe 1
The Africa Cup of Nations holders Algeria went into their game against Zimbabwe looking to stretch their long unbeaten run.
Against an organised Zimbabwe side, it was Baghdad Bounedjah who gave Algeria the lead after 31 minutes.
Galatasaray midfielder Sofiane Feghouli made it 2-0 to the hosts just before the break with a diving header thanks to some good work from Riyad Mahrez.
The Manchester City player went from goal-maker to goalscorer in the second half, giving his country a 3-0 cushion in the 67th minute.
Zimbabwe did not give up and pushed for a deserved consolation goal which came through Tino Kadewere after 79 minutes.
Zimbabwe pressed for more in the closing stages but Algeria held firm to close out a 3-1 victory.
Zambia 2 Botswana 1
Zambia, who won the title in 2012, are now back in contention in Algeria’s group, getting their first points of the qualifying campaign as they came from behind to beat Botswana 2-1.
Both sides scored in the final moments of the first-half with the hosts Botswana taking the lead through Tumisang Orebonye only for Red Bull Salzburg’s Enoch Mwepu to equalise moments later.
Locally-based Collins Sikombe was on target for what turned out to be the winner for Chipolopolo in the 66th minute.
The two sides meet again in Gaborone on Monday.
The top two in the group will qualify and Zambia are now just one point adrift of second placed Zimbabwe at the half-way stage. Botswana are bottom with one point.
Ghana 2 Sudan 0
Ghana made it three wins from three with a 2-0 win over Sudan in their latest 2021 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier at the Cape Coast stadium on Thursday.
Andre Ayew was the hero, scoring two fine goals on his 91st appearance for the Black Stars but the Group C game was also overshadowed by a confrontation between Sudan coach Hubert Velud and a match official.
Swansea’s Ayew scored the opening goal in the 18th minute as he curled in a free kick from the edge of the D, with the goalkeeper left stranded.
Then in the 36th minute came the controversy as Sudan claimed a penalty as Ghana defender John Boye tangled with striker Abdel Rahman who burst into the area.
When the penalty was waved away it incensed Frenchman Velud and he angrily confronted the assistant referee, who put his hand up to push the coach away resulting in him falling to the ground.
To add insult to injury, Velud was shown a yellow card when he stood up.
On the stroke of half-time Ghana and Ayew had a second goal ruled out when he was ruled to have committed a foul as he rose to head the ball into the net.
He eventually got his second with nine minutes left to play as he raced down the right wing before cutting inside, beating two players and lashing the ball just inside the post from the edge of the area.
Ghana are without midfielder Thomas Partey for the games against Sudan, as he has stayed with his English club Arsenal to recover from a thigh injury he suffered in Sunday’s 3-0 loss to Aston Villa.
A minute’s silence was held before kick-off and Ghana’s players wore black armbands as a mark of respect to former Ghanaian President Jerry Rawlings whose death was announced just a few hours before the match.
The two teams meet again in Khartoum on Tuesday.
Ivory Coast 2-1 Madagascar
Ivory Coast got back to winning ways in the Nations Cup qualifiers as they edged past Madagascar 2-1 at the new Alassane Ouattara Stadium in Abidjan.
Last time out the Elephants had suffered a surprise 2-1 loss in Ethiopia and they were made to work hard for this win in Group K.
The start of the game was delayed by some heavy rain but when it got underway there was a debut for the former France youth international and Wolverhampton Wanderers’ defender Willy Boly.
Another France-born player, West Ham’s Sebastien Haller, made an impact on his debut as he scored what turned out to be the winner after coming on as a first-half substitute.
Haller stooped to head home a cross from Max Gradel shortly after veteran forward Gervinho opened the scoring in the 48th minute as he pounced on the ball when the Madagascar defence failed to clear properly.
Madagascar, who reached the last 16 of the Nations Cup last year on their debut, had created several chances throughout the game and eventually pulled a goal back on the hour mark.
Egypt-based Paulin Voavy made the most of a missed tackle by Ivory Coast and Spurs’ defender Serge Aurier to put the ball past Sylvain Gbohouo, who will also feel he should have done better.
Crystal Palace’s Wilfried Zaha was missing for Ivory Coast and posted on his social media:”I’ve got some family responsibilities that I’ve got to take care of, which means I won’t be there for the next two games but will be back next time around.”
The two sides meet again on Monday.
Gabon 2 The Gambia 1
Arsenal captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang scored for Gabon, guiding his nation to a crucial 2-1 victory over Group D rivals The Gambia in Franceville.
Both teams started the day level on points at the top of the standings in a tough group that also includes the Democratic Republic of Congo and Angola.
Gabon wasted little time, going ahead through St Etienne forward Denis Bouanga in the eighth minute.
Aubameyang made it 2-0 with a close-range finish in the 55th minute, but The Gambia replied through Bubacarr Jobe late on in the game to make it a nervous end to the match.
Gabon now have a three point lead at the top of the group ahead of the return match in Bakau on Monday.
Cameroon 4-1 Mozambique, Cape Verde 0-0 Rwanda
Nations Cup hosts Cameroon relied on some experienced players to secure a comfortable 4-1 win over Mozambique in Group F.
Cameroon’s football team knelt down on both knees as they sang their national anthem and wore black armbands in memory of the children murdered in an attack at a school last month.
Vincent Aboubakar scored after 38 minutes as he headed in a cross that had been whipped in from the left by Christian Bassogog.
He added his second shortly after the break with a powerful shot from the edge of the area, then just before the hour-mark Fulham’s Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa made it 3-0 with a bullet header.
Portugal-based Kamo-Kamo pulled one back for Mozambique on 74 minutes only for Clinton N’Jie to restore the three-goal advantage seven minutes later.
The other match in the group between Cape Verde and Rwanda ended goalless in Praia and that leaves the battle for the one remaining place from Group K wide open.
Cameroon, who qualify automatically for the delayed Nations Cup finals as hosts, are top – with Mozambique staying on four points, Cape Verde move to three and Rwanda to one.
Mozambique will host Cameroon on Monday while the Rwanda against Cape Verde return is on Tuesday.
Congo-Brazzaville 2-0 Eswatini
Congo recovered from missing a first-half penalty to score two late goals as they beat visiting Eswatini 2-0.
Germany-based Silvere Ganvoula failed to convert from the spot in added time at the end of the first half.
His blushes were spared thanks to goals from Azerbaijan-based Prince Ibara in the 77th minute and he then set up Junior Makiesse for the second just four minutes later.
Eswatini ended the game with 10 men after Siboniso Ngwenya was dismissed for a second bookable offence.
The result means that Eswatini are still without a point and bottom of Group I behind Guinea-Bissau, who are on three points. Congo move to six with Senegal leading the way with a maximum nine.
The return fixture is on Monday.
Uganda 1-0 South Sudan; Burkina Faso 3-1 Malawi
Uganda and Burkina Faso both edged closer towards qualification on Thursday with contrasting wins in Group B.
Uganda’s Cranes sealed their victory with a late goal, narrowly beating neighbours South Sudan.
The game in Kampala looked to be heading for a goalless draw until Halid Lwaliwa, who came on as a replacement for the injured Ronald Mukiibi, headed home a Farouk Miya free kick in the 86th minute.
Before that the best chance had fallen to Konyaspor’s Miya as he saw his shot hit the post in the 72nd minute.
One of South Sudan’s better chances came midway through the first-half from Makueth Wol, who plays in Uganda for Mbarara City, but his effort went wide.
The game also saw a Cranes debut for Elvis Bwomono who plays in the third tier of English football for Southend United,. The 21-year-old defender was born in Uganda but moved to the United Kingdom as a child.
The result means Uganda have seven points from their opening three Group B games while South Sudan remain pointless.
The two will face each other again on Monday in the Kenyan capital Nairobi, in a game moved from Juba as the stadium there is being renovated.
Uganda are second in the group on goal difference, below leaders Burkina Faso who produced a much more emphatic 3-1 win over Malawi in a late kick-off in Ouagadougou.
Ajax forward Lassina Traore was Burkina Faso’s danger-man, putting the hosts 2-0 up inside the first 25 minutes.
Traore could have had a hat-trick but missed a second-half penalty.
Gerald Phiri got one back for Malawi but Burkina Faso were always in control.