Updated January 15th, 2024 at 08:38 IST
Salah’s Egypt and Osimhen’s Nigeria have frustrating starts at Africa Cup; ‘Blue Sharks’ beat Ghana
Brenden Fraser, right, presents the award for best actress to Emma Stone for "Poor Things" during the 29th Critics Choice Awards on Sunday, Jan. 14, 2024, at the Barker Hangar in Santa Monica, Calif. (AP Photo/Chris Pizzello)
- 4 min read
Big names Mohamed Salah and Victor Osimhen endured a difficult start to the Africa Cup of Nations as Sunday turned into a day for the underdog.
Salah needed to score a late penalty to spare Egypt’s embarrassment by drawing 2-2 against Mozambique, and Osimhen was unable to lift Nigeria to a winning start as the “Super Eagles” were held 1-1 by Equatorial Guinea in their opening game.
Four-time champion Ghana conceded in injury time to lose 2-1 to Cape Verde, maintaining the small Atlantic island nation’s record of never losing its opening Africa Cup game in four tournament appearances.
“It’s a big team in Africa, in the world. Ghana has a lot of good players. But we showed tonight that we have a good team, good players, and we deserved to win,” Cape Verde veteran Ryan Mendes said.
CHEERS FOR MOZAMBIQUE
Salah stayed cool to score from the spot in the seventh minute of second-half stoppage time after Domingos was adjudged to have fouled Mostafa Mohamed in a VAR review.
That denied Mozambique its first-ever tournament win at the 13th attempt. But the team was still cheered by the majority of fans at the Félix Houphouët-Boigny Stadium.
Salah had also set up Mohamed to fire in the opener in the second minute of the Group B game.
The stadium, which had been filling up with Ghana and Cape Verde fans for the later match at the same venue, erupted when Mozambique winger Witi equalized with a header to Domingos’ cross in the 55th, and again three minutes later when Clésio Baúque fired the underdogs in front.
“It’s not the names that play, it’s the team, it’s everybody,” said Mozambique defender Reinildo. “We all save, we all play, we all score, we all concede. That’s what does it.”
Fans booed when the seven minutes of injury time was announced and cries of “Mozambique, Mozambique” rang around the stadium.
But Salah showed no nerves as he salvaged a point for “The Pharaohs” as they began their bid for a record-extending eighth title.
Osimhen scored but missed several good chances as Equatorial Guinea held on to draw 1-1.
Goalkeeper Jesús Owono produced a string of saves to frustrate three-time champion Nigeria in the second half after Osimhen had equalized in the first.
Nigeria dominated from the start only to be caught out in the 36th minute when José Machín set up Iban Salvador to fire Equatorial Guinea ahead.
Osimhen replied around a minute later when Ademola Lookman’s deflected cross dropped kindly for him to head in at the far post.
The result leaves coach José Peseiro’s team under pressure going into Thursday’s game against host nation Ivory Coast, which started the tournament Saturday with a 2-0 win over Guinea-Bissau.
GHANA LOSES OPENER
Cape Verde substitute Garry Rodrigues scored in stoppage time for a 2-1 win over four-time champion Ghana in Group B.
The “Blue Sharks” got off to a great start with Jamiro Monteiro scoring in the 17th minute on a rebound from Jovane Cabral’s initial shot saved by Richard Ofori in the Ghana goal.
Marshaled at the back by Roberto “Pico” Lopes and Logan Costa, Cape Verde’s defense largely dealt with Ghana’s speedy forward line of Jordan Ayew, Antoine Semenyo and Joseph Paintsil.
Majeed Ashimeru thought he’d equalized in the 36th with a long-range strike inside the left post after Ransford-Yeboah Königsdörffer’s header had ricocheted off the post for Ghana. But a VAR check deemed the retreating Königsdörffer was in an offside position and blocking the goalkeeper’s view.
The “Black Stars” finally equalized when Alexander Djiku headed in Ayew’s corner in the 56th.
Paintsil went close shortly afterward as coach Chris Hughton’s halftime talk evidently had the desired effect on his players. He sent on Iñaki Williams, Ernest Nuamah and veteran André Ayew, who equaled a record by playing in eight Africa Cups.
Cape Verde’s substitute had the final say, however.
Published January 15th, 2024 at 08:38 IST