Riyad Mahrez’s brace rescued Algeria a draw against underdogs Zimbabwe in the third game of the African Cup Of Nations.
Zimbabwe were given no chance against the immensely talented Algerian squad. But the side who feature in the African Cup of Nations for the first time in 11 years came less than 10 minutes away from a famous victory.
Mahrez fired Algeria ahead with a curling left-footed strike.
Mahachi cancelled this out soon after with a low shot from the left-hand side of the box which just sneaked between the posts.
Algeria looked to be in peril when Zimbabwe followed their goal up with another one from the spot. Belkhiter clumsily pulled down Bhasera and Mushekwi dispatched it.
Mahrez pulled the side level with nine minutes to go though when his harmless shot was dealt with poorly by Mkuruva who ended up parrying the ball into the net.
There were stand-out performances on both sides. Zimbabwe had the dazzling Billiat who had three moments of brilliance in the game which all ended in world-class saves from M’Bohli.
There was a near spectacular 30-yard goal which was tipped onto the post, a lightning run into the box to latch onto a loose ball which he shot to the bottom left corner only for M’Bohli to pick it out and a fantastic display of skill which saw him cut from left to right three times while on a run only to be denied at the near post. M’Bohli was on top form.
Mahrez was Algeria’s best outfield player leading the attacking drive for the team. Meftah was brilliant after coming off the bench, firing in fantastic crosses from the right but having to see most of them painfully squandered.
Zimbabwe will be kicking themselves for not going 3-1 up just before Mahrez’s second when substitute Malajila took possession of the ball in Algeria’s own area, beat two men and played himself in on goal. He fluffed the shot however, his shot saved at the far post, painful after how well he did in the build-up
Overall though, Zimbabwe will certainly be satisfied with a draw against one of the tournament’s favourites. They definitely surpassed expectations and 26-year-old Khama Billiat will be a watched man after his performance. He was outstanding in the South African top flight last season and has certainly impressed on the big stage.
Khama Billiat had the first real chance of the game. He led the counter-attack after his Zimbabwe team won the ball back from an Algerian free-kick, he shot from inside the area forcing a save out of M’Bohli
Billiat had yet another chance with an incredibly hit shot from over 30 yards out. After a corner looked to have resulted in failure the ball came to Billiat who took a long-distance shot on the turn which was tipped onto the post brilliantly by M’Bohli.
Mahrez put Algeria in front with a fantastic strike. The Leicester attacker was played into plenty of space in the middle of the park after Billiat gave the ball away further up the pitch. Mahrez ran into the box on the right, cut onto his left and curled it in.
Mahachi equalised very quickly for Zimbabwe with a great low strike. Mahachi set himself up by running the ball into the left-hand side of the box. He then managed to unleash a low, right-footed strike which avoided any blocks from Algerian players and sneaked inside the post.
M’Bolhi made a brilliant save to keep the scores level just over 20 minutes in. Billiat made an explosive run into the area, running onto a loose ball in the centre of the box. He fired a first-time shot into the bottom left corner only for the ball to be tipped away and behind by the Algerian goalkeeper.
Zimbabwe managed to win themselves a penalty when former Plymouth left-back Bhasera ran past Belkhiter and the Algerian, realising he was beaten, pulled the Zimbabwe player down. The player was booked.
Mushekwi put the penalty away. He sent the keeper the wrong way with a timid yet well-placed spot-kick.
The first half ended 2-1.
M’Bohli made yet another fantastic save. Billiat cut inside and out three times on the edge and inside the box before unleashing a shot destined for the top right corner only for it to be picked out and tipped wide by M’Bohli.
Bensebaini hit the upright with a header. He pinged one in at goal at the near post from a corner only to see it, unfortunately, hit the bar. The ball was put out for a corner.
Algeria were turned down a penalty when Zimbabwe goalkeeper Mkuruva missed the ball completely when coming out for it and clattered into Riyad Mahrez. It could well have been given as a penalty and even more questionably, he saw while out of his net that Algeria had the ball in a good area and went back down causing the ref to stop play.
The ball hit the Zimbabwe woodwork again, this time the shot was an accidental one from Zimbabwe defender Muroiwa. Ghoulam’s ball caused trouble for him as he got caught in two minds and the ball ricocheted off his knee and off the outside of the post.
Malajila missed a golden chance to give Zimbabwe a two-goal lead. He stole the ball and managed to run past two defenders on the left before going one-on-one with the keeper but only managed to hit a shot straight at him.
Mahrez saved Algeria with under 10 minutes to go. The goal involved a big dose of luck as Zimbabwe’s goalkeeper Mkuruva made a big mistake. Mahrez took a shot from well outside the box and it was one quite close to Mkuruva. Mkuruva made a hash of it, however, failing to get a good hand behind it and guiding the ball into the back of the net.
Slimani missed a huge chance to put Algeria in front. The aerial expert missed a headed effort of all things. Meftah played a ball into Slimani who was positioned in the six yard box. The Leicester striker headed the ball into the ground softly and sent the ball well wide. A very disappointing end to the attack.
The game ended 2-2, which seemed like a fair enough result. A great one for Zimbabwe too, who gave themselves a good chance of qualifying from this edition’s group of death.