football

Iheanacho sees Nigeria past Egypt after holders Algeria are held by Sierra Leone


Kelechi Iheanacho’s excellent first-half goal handed Nigeria a deserved 1-0 victory over a below-par Egypt in their Africa Cup of Nations Group D clash in Garoua.

Iheanacho crashed a half-volley from the edge of the box into the top corner after 30 minutes to settle the contest, but Nigeria should have added at least a couple more goals in what was the best performance by a team in the finals so far and a warning to their rivals.

Egypt failed to shift out of first gear and could not get their talisman forward Mohamed Salah into the game as he cut an isolated figure up front, starved of service and the quality around him to have an influence.

Nigeria hit the crossbar early in the second period when Taiwo Awoniyi’s close-range header was turned on to the frame of the goal by Egypt goalkeeper Mohamed El Shennawy, before Iheanacho fluffed a superb chance to double the advantage as the ball fell to him in acres of space in the box, but a poor first touch let him down.

Salah finally got a sight of goal on 70 minutes but, under pressure from two defenders and the keeper, could not get any power into his effort.

The defending champions, Algeria, missed a series of chances, to the growing fury of coach Djamel Belmadi on the sidelines, and drew 0-0 with minnows Sierra Leone in a surprise result at the Africa Cup of Nations on Tuesday.

Sierra Leone’s players salute their fans after securing a draw against Algeria in Douala.
Sierra Leone’s players salute their fans after securing a draw against Algeria in Douala. Photograph: Thaier Al-Sudani/Reuters

Sierra Leone are playing in their first Cup of Nations since 1996 and only their third ever, and came up against an Algeria team unbeaten since 2018.

But Algeria found no way past the Sierra Leone goalkeeper Mohamed Kamara, who celebrated the result of the Group E game at Japoma Stadium in Douala as if it was a win. Sierra Leone squad players sprinted from the bench on to the field at the end to join the celebrations.

Algeria had countless opportunities to win. Yacine Brahimi hit two shots straight at Kamara in quick succession at the start of the second half. The substitute Sofiane Bendebka failed to get his effort on target with Kamara out of position after making a save. And Riyad Mahrez was denied when Kamara got his fingertips to a low shot that was destined for the bottom corner.

When the striker Baghdad Bounedjah, another substitute, headed weakly and straight at Kamara in the final act of the game deep in injury time, a frustrated Belmadi fell to his knees on the touchline and smashed his hands on the ground.



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