Johannesburg (AFP) – Kenya held Mohamed Salah-less Egypt 1-1 and defending champions Algeria buried Zambia under a five-goal avalanche on Thursday as 2021 Africa Cup of Nations matchday one qualifying continued.
Debutant Mohammed Kudus clinched victory for Ghana over South Africa while Mali and Guinea ended 2-2 after four goals in 19 minutes.
In other matches, Comoros upset Togo, a Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang-inspired Gabon held the Democratic Republic of Congo and Mozambique were too strong for Rwanda.
Even without injured Liverpool goal poacher Salah, Egypt were expected to overcome traditional poor travellers Kenya at the vast 87,000-capacity Borg el Arab Stadium near Alexandria.
But after starting anxiously with every player behind the ball, Kenya had chances to score before they gifted Egypt the lead three minutes before half-time in the Group G clash.
A back pass from Erick Ouma in the centre circle to goalkeeper Ian Otieno was too weak and Mahmoud Kahraba took advantage to tap into the net.
Kenya became increasingly assertive in the second half and deservedly levelled on 67 minutes through a goal that stemmed from another careless back pass.
Michael Olunga was the beneficiary this time, firing into the corner of the net after an attempt by a teammate was blocked.
Algeria, who edged Senegal 1-0 in July to win the Cup of Nations a second time, finished strongly to humiliate 2012 champions Zambia 5-0 in Blida.
The surprisingly easy Group H victory extended the unbeaten run of the Desert Foxes to 17 matches since losing away to Benin last October.
Baghdad Bounedjah, whose second-minute goal won the 2019 final in Cairo, scored twice, with his first from a 68th-minute penalty giving Algeria a two-goal advantage.
Youcef Belaili, El Arbi Soudani and Bounedjah again netted during the final 15 minutes as the resistance of the Chipolopolo collapsed.
– Widest winning margin –
This was the widest winning margin of the 18 matchday one qualifiers played so far, surpassing the 4-0 hiding Sudan dished out to 10-man Sao Tome e Principe in Omdurman 24 hours earlier.
Ghana were impressive 2-0 Group C winners over South Africa in a Cape Coast showdown between former champions longing for a return of the good old days.
It is 37 years since the Black Stars won the last of four Cup of Nations titles while the lone Bafana Bafana triumph came 23 years ago.
Atletico Madrid midfielder Thomas Partey thrilled a capacity crowd by scoring nine minutes before half-time and Kudus celebrated his first cap by netting on 80 minutes.
Aubameyang, who has scored eight Premier League goals this season, was held goalless in Kinshasa, but will have been thrilled after Gabon forced a 0-0 Group D draw with DR Congo.
Gabon have bitter memories of recent Cup of Nations campaigns — failing to get past the first round as 2017 hosts and not even qualifying for an expanded 24-team 2019 tournament.
Mali led twice only to be pegged back each time by Guinea in a Group A encounter that burst into life when Adama Traore Noss gave the home team a 56th-minute lead.
The Bamako crowd were then enraptured as Liverpool midfielder Naby Keita equalised, Sekou Koita put Mali ahead a second time and Sekou Conde scored to earn Guinea a point.
Comoros, who lost a 2022 World Cup qualifier in Togo two months ago, gained revenge with a 1-0 Group G victory in Lome thanks to a Faiz Selemani goal.
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