African favourites find their way
© AFP

Day 5 - FIFA World Cup™-bound Algeria got their CAF African Cup of Nations campaign back on track with a hard-fought victory over luckless Mali, while hosts Angola again flexed their attacking muscle against Malawi.

The Angolans showed they can defend as well as score in a 2-0 win against Malawi in front of raucous support in Luanda’s November 11 Stadium, successfully banishing the ghosts of their four-goal collapse against Mali in the tournament opener.

A much-changed Mali side were unable to follow up on their debut heroics, losing out to a single goal from the Desert Foxes, who became the first 2010 FIFA World Cup finalist to claim a win at the CAN. Angola now top the group with four points, while their next opponents, Algeria, have three, along with the side that beat them 3-0 in their opening match, Malawi

Results
Mali 0-1 Algeria (Halliche 43’)
Angola 2-0 Malawi (Flavio 49’, Manucho 55’) 

Goal of the day
Angola 1-0 Malawi, Flavio (49’)
Angola showed ample offensive abilities and defensive frailties in their 4-4 draw with Mali, but only the former was on display against Malawi on Thursday. However the Black Antelopes struggled to find the net through the entire first half. And just when the thundering crowd started to feel some anxiety, Flavio leaped high and headed in his third goal of the tournament. Despite being just 1.7-metres tall, Flavio’s lunging header from Djalma’s cross again proved his aerial prowess is no fluke. A hamstring injury, however, might cost Flavio a place in the next game, and he told FIFA.com after the contest that he is doubtful for Monday match against Algeria.

Memorable moments
Clumsy challenge
There didn’t seem any imminent danger to the Algerian attack before Mali defender Bakary Soumare launched himself into a rough challenge on Yacine Bezzaz. Giving away a set piece just outside the area proved costly as Karim Ziani floated in a perfectly weighted free-kick that was met with a firm header from Rafik Halliche to give Algeria a much needed breakthrough at the end of the first half. After conceding three goals in a limp performance in their opener against Malawi, Algeria were on the brink of possible elimination, but the central defender’s goal could yet prove their ticket to the quarter-final. 

Manucho makes his second chance
The best chance Angola had in the first half came in the 35th minute when a nifty break sprung gifted youngster Manucho all alone on Malawi’s goalkeeper Swadick Sanudi, only for the netminder to pull off a reflex save around the post. But Manucho kept nipping at the heels of the defenders, and his efforts paid off when he hurried the Malawi defence into a mistake on the edge of their penalty box, stealing the ball away from Peter Mponda with a well-timed challenge. He advanced a few strides forward before blasting a shot that this time proved impossible for the goalkeeper to stop.

Luanda brings the noise
By the start of the day’s doubleheader at the November 11 Stadium, there were barely 10,000 supporters in the stands. But the numbers picked up steadily through the first game between Algeria and Mali and by kick-off of the Angola contest the stands were almost full. But it was only in the last 15 minutes when the crowd could sense victory that the terraces came alive, creating a fantastic din that carried their side through to the end on a high. “The crowd were absolutely fantastic tonight,” said striker Mantorras, who got a rousing reception of his own when he came on as a substitute for his first appearance of the CAF Africa Cup of Nations. “You have to play your best for your people when you hear them like that,” he said. 

Two cautions and out
Mali’s influential captain Mahamadou Diarra went into the match against Algeria having already picked up a caution in the opening game. It was foolhardy then to keep testing the patience of Ugandan referee Muhmed Ssesonga and when the Real Madrid midfielder made one protest too many in the 59th minute, Diarra was yellow carded again. The card means he will miss out on the match against Malawi in Cabinda on Monday where Mali must get a result to have any chance of escaping the group. 

The stat
14 - The number of goals scored in Group A at the Nations Cup, giving the people of Luanda value for their money at an average of 3.5 goals per game. 

What they said
"I take responsibility for the second goal. I did what I wasn’t supposed to do as a defender and try to dribble my way out of trouble. As a result I got caught out.” Malawi captain Peter Mponda. 

Tomorrow’s matches
Côte d'Ivoire - Ghana (15 Jan. 18:30 GMT) 

Have your say
Group A at the CAF Africa Cup of Nations is still wide open. Who do you think will go through? Click on 'Add your comment' and share your opinion with other football fans from around the world.