Senegal’s Teranga Lions become the first team to book a quarter final in the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations courtesy of a 2-0 win over Zimbabwe in Franceville, Gabon on Thursday.
Goals from Liverpool striker Sadio Mane and Henri Saviet, all within 13 minutes was enough to crown a 100 percent start by the West Africans.
Senegal are assured of topping Group B, even if they lose their final match to Algeria whose quarter final chances appear bleak after losing against Tunisia in the late kick off.
Senegal’s best performance was in 2002 in Mali when they lost to Cameroon on penalties. This was the same year they reached the quarter finals of the world cup.
“It’s been 10 years since we last made the quarter-finals. Now we have done it and I congratulate the players. I am very proud of the guys. Now we have to continue like this,” Aliou Cisse, the Senegal head coach and one of the star players of the 2002 team said after the win.
Senegal got into the lead in the ninth minute after Mane tapped in at the far post from a Keita Balde cross. Saviet who had been brought into the starting team in place of Pape Ndiaye then made it 2-0 minutes later with a well taken free kick after Balde was fouled on the edge of the box.
Zimbabwe were stunned by the early goals which arrived thick and fast even before they could into the game. The burden of expectation fell on Mamelodi Sundowns forward Kahama Billiat especially in the absence of the injured Knowledge Musona.
Billiat had a good chance to halve the deficit but his shot was not strong enough after getting into a good shooting position inside the box.
In the second half, Senegal continued with their pressure and Mane had two chances in quick succession. The first was blocked by keeper Tatenda Mkuruva while the second was headed away by defender Costa Nhamoinesu.
Tunisia win North African derby
In the early kick off, the Carthage Eagles of Tunisia enhanced their chances of progressing to the quarter finals after coming out tops in the North African derby, beating Algeria 2-1.
The result complicates the Desert Foxes’ chances of progressing. They must now beat Senegal in their final group match and hope Tunisia lose to Zimbabwe.
Tunisia who had started the tournament with a loss to Senegal scored twice in the second half and held on to a late fight-back from Algeria.
Aissa Mandi’s own goal gave the Tunisians the lead before Nalim Sliti converted a penalty to cement the lead.
Substitute Sofiane Hanni scored a goal in added time for the Algerians who face an early exit.
“We started very well, but we know that in a match of this level we cannot give away gifts. If we make them two presents in the second half, we cannot win. The way we conceded the second goal when we were hit on the counter attack, we cannot have imagined that before the game,” admitted the coach Georges Leekens.
Algeria, anchored by Leicester City players Riyad Mahrez and Islam Silimani had the best of starts as they hoped to win the match having played to a 2-2 draw against Zimbabwe in the first match of the tourney.
FC Porto’s Yacine Brahimi was the first to cause danger with a freekick from the edge of the area which went inches wide. Slimani came close moments later with a header from close range which was turned away by keeper Aymen Mathlouthi’s feet.
Mathlouthi was again called to task towards the half hour mark, going down well to keep out a shot from Mahrez, the reigning African Footballer of the Year.
Pressure bore fruits
In the second half, Tunisia picked their feet and started better. The pressure bore fruits five minutes into the half. An intended cross from Youssef Msakni deflected off defender Mandi, throwing his keeper off guard and the ball going into the net.
In the 66th minute, Tunisia went two up from the penalty spot, Sliti coolly concerting after Wahbi Kazri was fouled by the Algerian keeper. Algeria tried a late fight back, but the Tunisians were never going to let the lead slip off their faces.