Thursday 19 January 2017, 21:49

Senegal into last eight, Algeria up against it

THE DAY REPLAYED* – *Beaten 2-1 by Tunisia in a high-stakes North African derby, Algeria’s chances of reaching the knockout stages of the 2017 CAF Africa Cup of Nations now appear slim. Conversely, Senegal booked their place in the quarter-finals with a convincing victory over Zimbabwe. looks back on the two Group B fixtures played in Franceville on Thursday.

The day’s results Group B Algeria 1-2 Tunisia Senegal 2-0 Zimbabwe

The analysis After both experiencing a difficult opening round of games at Gabon 2017, with Algeria held to a surprise draw by Zimbabwe and Tunisia losing to Senegal, Les Fennecs and the Eagles of Carthage arrived in Franceville desperate for a positive result. Despite having to deal with the absence of their injured goalkeeper Rais M’Bohli, the Algerians had the best of a first half that they mostly dominated, enjoying greater possession of the ball and creating more clear-cut chances, none of which they managed to convert.

This lack of clinical finishing, combined with some shaky defending, came back to haunt them five minutes into the second period, when a cross from Youssef Msakni was deflected into his own net by Algerian captain Aissa Mandi to give Tunisia the lead. A quarter of an hour later, the Tunisians increased their advantage through a penalty by Naim Sliti following a foul by Faouzi Ghoulam on Wahbi Khazri in the Algerian penalty box. Algeria reduced the margin in injury time through a sweetly struck Sofiane Hanni shot, but could not conjure up an equaliser in the final seconds, despite pushing hard.

Having enjoyed a strong start to their African Cup of Nations campaign, Senegal continued where they left off against Tunisia by comfortably seeing off Zimbabwe in the second Group B match of the day. The Lions of Teranga went ahead early on, with Sadio Mane getting on the end of a low cross from Keita Balde Diao on nine minutes. Five minutes later, Senegal doubled their lead, as Henri Saivet fired home a fantastic free kick.

Subsequently, Zimbabwe midfielder Khama Billiat was presented with a couple of useful chances to bring his side back into the match, but the Senegalese defence – marshalled by a commanding Kalidou Koulibaly – held firm. After the break, the Zimbabweans stepped up the pressure, but Senegal dealt with any threats without overly exerting themselves, and can now look forward to extending their Gabonese adventure.

Highlight of the day By helping a Yacine Brahimi free-kick (5’) over the crossbar, making a magnificent reflex stop from a point-blank Islam Slimani effort (6’), and pulling off a fine save from a long-range Adlene Guedioura strike (11’), Tunisian goalkeeper Aymen Mathlouthi played a huge part in his team’s success over Algeria on Thursday.

Although the Algerians did eventually find the net in injury time, skipper Mathlouthi had already left the pitch, having been replaced by Rami Jeridi after suffering a calf injury in the 84th minute. Given his remarkable performance in Franceville, the Tunisian fans will be hoping that the influential shot-stopper makes a swift recovery.

The stat 2 – The best-placed African team in the FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking, Senegal are gradually emerging as one of the favourites to win the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations. For the moment, they are the only team to have registered two victories in the tournament. Only Congo DR and Ghana are in a position to emulate that achievement over the next 48 hours.

Next matchday Friday 20 January (all times local)

Group C Côte d’Ivoire-Congo DR (17.00) Morocco-Togo (20.00)

The winners of the CAF Africa Cup of Nations Gabon 2017 will represent the continent at the FIFA Confederations Cup Russia 2017.