By Deolu Akingbade.
Algeria 1, Libya 0
Player of the Match: Algerian and USM Alger center-forward Aimen Mahious
CHAN got underway with a heart-stopping clash between favorites and hosts Algeria and an experienced Libya side that will surely determine the rankings of Group A. Although it was a hard-fought, offense-oriented matchup; Libya and Algeria had 25 shots combined; it was Aimen Mahious‘ penalty that separated Algeria and Libya.
Although Mahious showed his brilliance by winning and converting a penalty, Algeria’s dominance can be traced back to their dominance on the ball and ability to repeatedly break down the Libyan defense. It was evident when Algeria could get into the wide spaces with some fascinating, short, link-up play. Experienced Belouizdad wing-back Mokhtar Belkhiter and USM Alger winger Meziane Bentahar wreaked havoc on the wings. They overloaded the flanks, completed short, quick passes, and stretched out the defense to create great chances.
The man of the match is, of course, Mahious. The USM Alger striker has had three goals in 15 Algeria Ligue 1 appearances and added another in CAF Confederation Cup qualifying. He continued his decent form abroad for Algeria when he pounced on a poor Libyan back pass, forcing a dirty slide tackle from the Libyan keeper. Mahious cleanly slotted his penalty into the bottom left corner, bouncing up like Jorginho to send the goalie the wrong way.
ALGERIA TAKE THE LEAD FROM THE SPOT! 🎯
🍟 Algeria 🆚 Libya
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Other players who had a good game include ES Setif’s Ahmed Kendouci(target for Rangers and Celtic who leads the league in goals with eight in 15 games), who forced the bad backpass, and USM Alger’s Zineddine Belaïd, who was excellent throughout the entire game. For Libya, rising Al Ahli SC defender Muayid Jabbour and Al-Nasr Benghazi legend Ali Salama(seventh-most caps in Libyan history) impressed.
Ethiopia 0, Mozambique 0
Player of the Match: Ethiopian and Saint George SA center midfielder Gatoch Panom
The second match of the African Nations Championship ended in surprise and sorrow for the Ethiopian team. When Ethiopia could have taken home three points to give them a huge advantage going into the next matchdays, an underdog Mozambique snatched that hope away from them.
Ethiopia dominated the game, holding 64% possession, getting 15 shots, and completing nearly 300 more passes than their Southern African counterparts. Yet, their 90 minutes against Mozambique was a masterclass in profligacy. Of the fifteen shots, only three were actually on target. The Ethiopian side’s wastefulness and a magnificent Mozambican defensive performance helped secure Mozambique’s first-ever point at the African Nations Championship.
Ethiopia’s offensive might is thanks to Gatoch Panom, who put in a Man of the Match performance for Ethiopia. The center midfielder had 113 touches, completed 82 passes and four long balls, and had three clearances and three interceptions. He’s played everywhere from Russia to Egypt due to his calmness on the ball and dogged defending. His performances evoked comparisons to Pierre Højberg with his pragmatism, passing, and defending. Panom is the core of a contending Ethiopia team and can go all the way. Watch out for him as the 28-year-old works his way into the tournament’s later stages.
Elsewhere, Ethiopia’s right-winger Amanuel Gebremichael, Ethiopian center-back Million Solomon, and rising Mozambican keeper Víctor Guambe all impressed in front of a disappointed Algiers crowd.
DR Congo 0, Uganda 0
Player of the Match: Ugandan and SC Villa center-back Geoffrey Wasswa
DR Congo and Uganda toiled to a scoreless draw. Some described it as a dreary, boring match. They may be right; the game only had two total shots on target. But they missed out on a spirited performance from Geoffrey Wasswa and a Ugandan squad looking to write history. It seemed that the Uganda Cranes could retain possession, but they could not generate good chances from it.
The game’s highlight came when Uganda left-back Derrick Ndahiro cut off a pass by muscling off Congo winger Maxi Nzengeli. Many fans in the May 19th Stadium whistled for a penalty, but referees ruled that the challenge was shoulder-to-shoulder (although it looked like Ndahiro elbowed Nzengeli on the TV broadcast).
Regardless of the controversial refereeing performance, Wasswa led the way in a solid defending performance. He cut out some great chances, including a diving clearance to turn a genuine opportunity into a mere corner and a clean slide tackle on the edge of the six-yard box. Wasswa had four clearances, won five duels, and completed ten long balls for a Uganda side that relied on off-the-ball runs to set up one-on-ones.
Other talents include Vipers SC captain and Uganda right-winger Milton Karisa, who had a goal before it was disallowed for offsides. TP Mazembe center-back and Congo defender Kevin Mondeko was elite, and Vipers midfielder Marvin Youngman pulled the strings for an unlucky Ugandan squad.
An exciting Ugandan talent to watch out for in their upcoming match against Senegal is Wakiso Giants FC and CECAFA U-20 Championship Player of the Tournament midfielder Titus Ssematimba. He played 35 minutes as a substitute but did not impact the game with his limited time on the pitch.
Senegal 1, Ivory Coast 0
Player of the Match: Senegalese and Génération Foot center midfielder Lamine Camara
Senegal topped Group B of the African Nations Championship in a thrilling 1-0 victory over their West African rivals Ivory Coast. Although it started off competitively, Senegal slowly but surely ushered their dominance. ASC Jaaraf midfielder Moussa Ndiaye (not the Anderlecht defender) prevented parity let in the game when he tapped in a free kick that hit the bar.
Senegal dominated the match, but without ASEC Mimosas prodigy and Ivorian midfielder Mohamed Zougrana, the scoreline could have been closer to 4-0. Zougrana covered the entirety of the field as a number six, working tirelessly on defense and helping out a bit in the final third. He led the Ivory Coast in touches, trailing only Camara in the game. Not only that, but he completed the most passes on the team, completed three long balls, and intercepted four passes.
Despite unfortunately not getting on the scoresheet, star midfielder Lamine Camara, who has been linked with a move to Ligue 2 side Metz, set the tempo for the match. He led the game with 76 touches. He also had four clearances and drew three fouls. Not only was the dynamic Camara the catalyst for several counter-attacks with some clean passes, but he also generated great opportunities by himself. He drew and took the free kick Ndiaye scored from, missed a penalty, and had two passes that led to shots.
GOAAAAAAAL! ⚽️ 🎯 SENEGAL TAKES THE LEAD! The goal is given after checking the VAR
🍟 Ivory Coast 🆚 Senegal
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Other talents in the match included the teenage goalscorer Ndiaye, Génération Foot defender Cheikhou Ndiaye, and FC San Pedro talent Abdramane Konate in the Ivory Coast.
Madagascar 2, Ghana 1
Player of the Match: Malagasy and CFFA right-winger Solomampionona Razafindranaivo
Ghana’s Sunday match against a Madagascar side tipped to bounce out in the group stage proved to be a historical upset. Madagscar’s 2-1 win over Ghana, one of the favorites to win the tournament, is their first-ever win at an African Nations Championship.
An early goal from CFFA winger Solomampionona Razafindranaivo and Fosa Juniors striker Tokinantenaina Olivier‘s second-half goal gave Madagascar an unsurmountable lead. A late Ghana goal from Asante Kotoko talent Augustine Agyapong could not salvage a point for a Ghana side that will have a harder chance of getting to the knockout rounds now.
Tournament debutants Madagascar defeated Ghana in the African Nations Championship yesterday. Winger Tokinantenaina Olivier of Fosa Juniors FC scored the second goal in a 2-1 win and was named Man of the Match 🇲🇬⚽️ pic.twitter.com/acUMbGVpKW
— James Nalton (@JDNalton) January 16, 2023
Despite losing the match, it seemed like Ghana controlled the tempo of the matchup. They held 63% possession and launched 17 shots toward the Malagasy goal. But, as we saw with Ethiopia when they could not take home all three points, Ghana could not convert their great chances into actual goals. “Such things happen in football. It happens in competitions where big teams lose their opening games. We may have lost but we are certainly not out of the competition yet,” Ghana coach Annor Walker shrugged.
Razafindranaivo was magnificent throughout the match. The right winger helped establish an early lead with his 10th-minute goal. He did magnificently to get on the inside of Ghanaian defender Dennis Nkrumah-Korsah, and although his first shot was weak, the rebound was great.
The CFFA attacker, who scored in the first qualifying rounds of the CAF Champions League, was everywhere in the match. His physicality helped hold up the ball, giving Madagascar some brief but impactful time on the ball. Razafindranaivo even dropped deep into the midfield, getting three vital tackles to help Madagascar secure a much-needed three points.
Other players who impressed were the two goalscorers in Agyapong and Olivier. Key Ghanaian midfielder David Abagna of Real Tamale United and Hearts of Oak wingback Dennis Korsah were all solid despite their loss
Mali 3, Angola 3
Player of the Match: Angolan and Petro de Luanda center-forward Depú
The first true thriller of the African Nations Championship came in Angola’s 3-3 draw with Mali. The action started with a 10th-minute goal Depú strike where he neatly strode into the box and pounced on an Eddie Afonso cross to give Angola an early lead. However, Mali quickly struck back. Djoliba striker Hamidou Sinayoko lurked inside the box when a corner came in, pouncing on the chaos caused by a big save and neatly striking his equalizer. Depú restored Angola’s lead when he latched onto a To Carneiro cross. He floated in the air and lost his balance for a bit. However, he still headed his attempt into the top of the net.
Angola continued their dominance in the 71st minute when Depú slammed in a cross from the edge of the box. Petro de Luanda winger Gilberto connected with the cross, making for a strong finish and creating Angola’s third goal of the match.
But Mali was not done. An Ousmane Coulibaly-sent corner saw Mali’s Yoro Mamadou Diaby head an attempt squarely into the center of the goal. The Angola keeper could not get his fingertips on it. Mali continued their spirited comeback when Coulibaly pounced on a defensive mishap in the box, intensely pressing and winning the ball back from a defender and cleanly striking the equalizing goal to cap off a six-goal thriller.
Both Djoliba winger Coulibaly and Petro de Luanda striker Depú played impeccably; between them, they created five out of the six goals in the match. Depú reminded me of Napoli’s Victor Osimhen; a player who is a target forward and a menace in the box but can also make plays.
Coulibaly was intense, clinical, and an all-around major presence on the pitch. He’s someone that Mali coach Diané Nouhoum will definitely need to use in their upcoming matchup with Mauritania.
The game had a lot of quality, and it was a very sophisticated, detailed match that saw many excel. Players who really impressed me include 1° de Agosto’s key midfielder Herenilson and AS Real Bamako defender Ismael Bamba.
Cameroon 1, Congo 0
Player of the Match: Cameroonian and Colombe Sportive right-winger Jerome Ngom Mbekeli
Cameroon narrowly scraped by in a tense 1-0 victory over Congo. Jerome Ngom Mbekeli, who assisted Vincent Aboubakar’s winning goal against Brazil, was the difference maker as he soared across the box to connect with a Ramses Nguimzeu cross.
Cameroon dominated possession, holding 60% possession and shooting 10 times. The score could have been as high-scoring as the Mali-Angola game just a few hours prior, but both sides missed some big chances.
Mbekeli was everywhere during the match, providing a threat on offense but remaining solid when asked to drop behind on defense. There were numerous benefits of manager Alioum Saidou’s approach to the potential fluidity on the flanks, like Mbekeli’s high amount of tackles (4) and interceptions (2).
Mbekeli and Coton Sport left-winger Nguimzeu were the keys to victory as they strolled to their victory in the Oran Olympic Stadium.
🇨🇲 Cameroon take the lead!!! ⚽️✅
⚽️ Catch Cameroon 🆚 Congo LIVE now on beIN SPORTS XTRA.
🔗 https://t.co/OQzCHWAoIf#TotalEnergiesCHAN2022 | #CMRCGO
— beIN SPORTS USA (@beINSPORTSUSA) January 16, 2023
Fauve Azur’s teenage talent Arthur Avom played very well in his number six role, and his teammate, starting left-back Saidou Ibrahim, also played well.
Algeria: 3 points
Ethiopia: 1 point
Mozambique: 1 point
Libya: 0 points
Senegal: 3 points
Uganda: 1 point
DR Congo: 1 point
Ivory Coast: 0 points
Madagascar: 3 points
Sudan: 0 points: Sudan’s game with Morocco was cancelled.
Ghana: 0 points
Morocco: 0 points: Morocco dropped out of CHAN after a row between Morocco and hosts Algeria. Morocco expected to be able to fly directly to Constantine, where they would play their three group-stage matches. Yet, due to political tension between the two nations, Morocco decided to more or less pull out.
Morocco-Algeria political tensions are ongoing for several reasons, but mainly due to the situation in Western Sahara – Morocco claims the territory but Algeria supports the Sahrawi independence movement – and Morocco’s signing of a normalization agreement with Israel.
— James Nalton (@JDNalton) January 14, 2023
Angola: 1 point
Mali: 1 point
Mauritania: 0 points: Mauritania will play their first CHAN match on Friday against Angola
Cameroon: 3 points
Niger: 0 points: Niger will play their first CHAN match on Friday against Congo.
Congo: 0 points