JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – Algeria thrashed Zambia 5-0 on Thursday in a successful start to the defence of their continental crown, winning their opening qualifier for the 2021 African Cup of Nations 117 days after lifting the trophy.
Baghdad Bounedjah scored twice, one from the penalty spot, with Ramy Bensebaini, Youssef Belaili and substitute El Arabi Hilal Soudani completing a pleasing performance for the home fans in Blida.
Thomas Partey’s long-range shot gave Ghana the lead and 19-year-old debutant Mohammed Kudus added the second in a 2-0 home win over South Africa in Cape Coast, but Egypt, who hosted the finals this year, were held 1-1 at home by Kenya.
Mohamed Salah’s absence due to an ankle injury left Egypt looking ineffective in attack although they did take the lead when Mahmoud Kahraba picked up on a weak back pass.
Michael Olunga stunned the home crowd in Alexandria with a 67th-minute equaliser for Kenya.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang captained Gabon as they forced a goalless draw away to Democratic Republic of Congo in Kinshasa while Mali twice surrendered the lead as they were held 2-2 by Guinea, for who Naby Keita scored their first goal.
The Comoros Islands, who only became FIFA members in 2005, notched their first away win in a competitive international as Faiz Selemani scored early in the second half to beat Togo 1-0 in Lome.
The small Indian Ocean island nation host Egypt on Monday, looking to keep up their giant-killing start in Group G.
Mozambique beat Rwanda 2-0 at home in Thursday’s other qualifier.
Qualifiers continue through to Tuesday, by which time each of the 48 participating countries will have played two matches each.
The top two in each of the 12 groups advance to the finals, to be hosted in Cameroon in mid-2021.
(Reporting by Mark Gleeson; Editing by Ed Osmond)