By Prince Dulzy
Riyad Mahrez scored a brace as he rescued Algeria against Zimbabwe in a match that ended in a 2-2 draw in their Group B clash on Sunday in Franceville.
The reigning African Best Player gave Algeria an early lead after 12 minutes through an individual effort. Mahrez curled a shot from the left side on the edge of the box to the far corner of Marshal Mkuruva’s net.
The goal gave the Dessert Foxes confidence as they went all out attacking the Zimbabweans, but they were equally solid and attentive at the back after that master class goal from Mahrez.
However, it took only 5 minutes for Zimbabwe to come back into the game scoring the leveller through Mahachi who fired a low shot past Rais M’Bolhi from just inside the area after beating the defender with pace to create the chance.
Zimbabwe pilled pressure on Algeria after the equalizer creating a lot of chances, but Algeria goalkeeper, Cobos Mbolhi was always ready making fine saves to deny the Warriors a goal.
In the 28th minute the referee pointed to the spot to give Zimbabwe a penalty, when Hardlife Zvirekwi was brought down inside the penalty box by Mokhtar Belkhiter. Mushekwi stepped up to take it, and he made no mistake from the 12 yards.
Zimbabwe leading 2-1 kept on pressing high and created lots of chances to put the game beyond the reach for Algeria, but wasted all the chances. That will come back to hunt them in the second half.
Algeria started the second half with intensity and almost equalized through Brahimi who was denied by crossbar.
The North Africans kept on pressing for the equalizer, creating a lot of chances and came close through Mahrez whose shot lacked the power to beat goalkeeper Marshal Mkuruva.
Zimbabwe was again lucky when the woodwork rescued them in the 73rd minute when Elisha Muroiwa looked to cut out a cross that struck his knee and came back off the crossbar.
In the 79th minute, Islam Slimani also had the opportunity to draw level for Algeria but headed wide after a cross from Brahimi.
But three minutes later, in the 82nd minute, Algeria finally got the equalizer from no one else than Mahrez, who shot just outside the box into the back of the net.
Algeria next match is against their North Africa counterpart, Tunisia, on 19 January, while Zimbabwe take on Senegal two hours later.
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