AFCON 2021: Senegal and Malawi march on, Ghana out

AFCON 2021: Senegal and Malawi march on, Ghana out

Group B rivals Malawi and Senegal played out an insipid goalless draw, as the Téranga Lions qualified for the Africa Cup of Nations’ (AFCON) knockout stages, along with Mario Marinică’s men.

Although, the losing finalists in 2019 started their AFCON tournament with two disappointing performances where they claimed a last gasp win over Zimbabwe and a draw with Guinea, Aliou Cisse’s men were off the blocks for this one as Sadio Mané sent the first effort of the evening just over the crossbar in the 7th minute.

Malawi, who relied on counterattacks, got a chance of their through forward Khuda Muyaba but his attempt narrowly went past Edouard Mendy’s goal. As the half progressed, the Senegalese look out of order and organization but their opponents could not capitalize at all. 

After the restart, Habib Diallo’s header from a free-kick was expertly stopped by Malawi shot-stopper Charles Thomu but Senegal kept having more of the ball possession and were looking likely to score their first goal from open play in the tournament.

Meanwhile, Buona Sarr’s foul in the area handed Malawi a 75th-minute penalty. However, that call went to the VAR where the ref’s initial decision was overturned. 

It ended goalless in Bafoussam as Malawi finished in third place behind Senegal and Guinea, but qualified to the knockout stage with a brave performance against the tournament favorites. 

In the other game, Zimbabwe pulled off an upset, beating Guinea 2-1 in their final round of Group B fixtures. Although, they failed to progress, but they will take solace in the fact that they ended the tournament with a win.

Skipper Knowledge Musona headed home a fine cross to put Zimbabwe in front before Kudakwashe Mahachi doubled the lead just a few minutes before HT. A fierce strike from Liverpool man Naby Keita halved the deficit for Guinea.

Guinea pushed men forward from there on but the goal never came as Zimbabwe managed to weather the storm and held out for the win. Meanwhile, Guinea advanced to the Round of 16 as the second-placed team in Group B.

Black Stars crash out, Gabon finish behind Morocco

In a fascinating conclusion to Group C, Comoros claimed their first-ever victory at the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) finals, edging 10-man Ghana 3-2 in dramatic fashion. 

Having failed to score in their opening two group fixtures in their debut campaign, Comoros were looking for their first goal at the tournament but the wait was not for long as they got the goal just four minutes into the encounter. A lovely counter-attack was finished aplomb by El Fardou Ben Nabouhane to hand his side an unexpected lead.

With Ghana staring at a possible exit, it further became more difficult, when André Ayew was shown a controversial red card in the 25th minute. The Al-Sadd man was given his marching orders for a challenge on goalkeeper Salim Ben Boina, which led to the Comoros number one being replaced by Ali Ahamada.

Despite the numerical disadvantage, the ‘Black Stars’ were dominating play and could have leveled before HT when Thomas Partey’s thunderous free-kick went just wide.

After the restart and an obvious drop in tempo early on, Ahmed Mogni doubled his side’s advantage in the 62nd minute to keep his side dreaming. Substitute Richmond Boakye headed home Daniel-Kofi Kyereh’s corner-kick to halve the deficit for Ghana.

Milovan Rajevac’s men continued to mount pressure on the Comoros defence and they restored parity in the 77th minute as Alexander Djiku tucked home from close range. Despite surrendering a two-goal lead, Amir Abdou’s side eventually took all three points when Mogni completed his brace with a simple tap-in from close range. 

The narrow victory may not be enough for Comoros, who will now have to see if they qualify as one of the four best third-placed teams.

Elsewhere, Morocco bounced back from a poor first-half to claim top spot in Group C. Jim Allevinah made it 1-0 to Gabon in the 21st minute before Sofiane Boufal converted a 73rd-minute penalty to drag his side level. It was a battle for top-spot and Gabon thought they had nicked it when defender Nayef Aguerd turned the ball into his own.

However, Achraf Hakimi curled home a fantastic free-kick to put Morocco through as top of the group. While Gabon, despite losing the lead late on, will be pleased to still progress to the Round of 16.

Image Credit: AFP

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