CAIRO: Senegal reinforced their status as one of the favourites to win the African Cup of Nations by starting their campaign in Egypt with a 2-0 win over Tanzania on Sunday.

Senegal didn’t miss forward Sadio Mane, who was suspended for the game, as they opened with a solid display in Cairo.

Playing just his second competitive game for his country, Krepin Diatta powered in a shot from outside the penalty area to make it 2-0 midway through the second half.

Keita Balde got the first goal in the 28th minute after finishing off an intricate attack which swept from one side of the field to the other by driving his shot into the bottom corner.

Also in Group ‘C’, Riyad Mahrez scored the second goal as Algeria began their campaign with a 2-0 win over Kenya, who qualified for the first time since 2004.

Baghdad Bounedjah slotted a penalty for Algeria after Aissa Mandi cut into the area from the right flank and was sliced down. Mahrez added the second before halftime. His first-time shot from a cross was heading for the bottom right corner of the Kenyan net, deflected off a defender, and ended up in the bottom left.

Morocco got lucky and escaped with a 1-0 victory over Namibia in Group ‘D’ when Itamunua Keimune scored an own goal in the 89th minute.

“The first game is always difficult,” Morocco’s M’barak Boussoufa said. “We are happy to win, even by a slim margin.”

Striker Keimune was at the wrong end of the field and trying to clear a free kick from Hakim Ziyech. Apparently uncertain whether to kick or head the ball, all he did was divert it into his own net with a minute to go. Bitterly disappointed, Namibia’s players slumped to the ground at the final whistle and were consoled by members of their coaching staff.

Published in Dawn, June 25th, 2019