The African Nations Cup kicked off in earnest this weekend with hosts Tunisia making the perfect start with a 2-1 win over battling Rwanda in the opening match.
Brazilian import Silva dos Santos was the star of the show, scoring the winning goal to make himself an instant favourite amongst the home fans.
Tunisia started the game well and after a number of chances took the lead on 26 minutes through Jaziri. The striker who plies his trade in Turkey with Gaziantepspor broke between two defenders to drive the ball into the top corner past Nkunzingoma in the Rwandan goal.
However Rwanda proved they are not in the tournament just to make up the numbers hitting back within five minutes when Elias curled a peach of a free-kick over the wall and in off the post.
Despite Tunisia’s dominance they failed to carve out many good opportunities thereafter until referee Evehe Divine of Cameroon changed the game by sending off Abdul Sibomana for a second bookable offence in the 56th minute.
Benachour put the resulting free kick in the box and Santos latched onto it to score from close range. That was how it stayed but Benachour earned himself an unnecessary red card after being booked for diving in the penalty area and then protesting against the decision for his second yellow.
Holders Cameroon conceded their first goal in open play in African Nations Cup matches since the final of 2000 in a surprise 1-1 draw with Algeria.
The Lions dominated the game from the outset with Mallorca striker Samuel Eto’o squandering several chances to open the scoring. Then veteran front man Patrick Mbomba headed the first goal two minutes before half time after being left completely unmarked on the edge of the six-yard box.
In the second half the crowd fully expected the floodgates to open but it never happened and on 51 minutes substitute Brahim Zafour pulled his side level from close range.
In the other Group D clash Egypt defeated Zimbabwe 2-1 despite Peter Nlovu giving his side a 46th minute lead.
The impressive Pharaohs made the comeback with a lucky equaliser coming from a goal mouth scramble and a Mohamed Barakat winner in the 62nd minute. The Egyptian met a long cross with his first touch since coming on as a substitute to power in a far post header.
Tunisia’s Group A rivals Guinea were also forced to come from behind to beat Congo 2-1 in a shock result. Ekakanga Masudi put Congo in front before former Marseilles and Liverpool striker Titi Camara and Pascal Feindouno scored late goals to turn things around.
Yesterday Mali started their campaign with an easy 3-1 victory over Kenya. Lamine Sissoko got their first only to see it wiped out by a Mulama equaliser on 58 minutes.
But then Tottenham Hotspur’s Frederic Kanoute stole the show, justifying his change of international allegiance with goals in the 63rd and 82nd minutes.
In the evening fixture Senegal proved to be somewhat disappointing, stuttering to a 0-0 bore draw with Burkina Faso.
The World Cup quarter finalists dominated possession but showed a distinct lack of imagination and when they did create opportunities they were squandered with Wolverhampton Wanderers’ Henri Camara the most culpable.
Star man El Hadji Diouf was played just behind the Wolves forward and failed to impose himself on the game. The result leaves Mali top of Group B and gives Senegal coach Guy Stephan plenty to think about.