BILDA. — African champions Algeria showed how Zambia have fallen behind the pecking order of the continent’s football heavyweight with a ruthless 5-0 destruction of Chipolopolo in their opening 2021 African Cup of Nations qualifier on Thursday night.
The 2012 African champions were no match for Riyad Mahrez and his men and, after holding on in the first half, collapsed after the interval in spectacular fashion.
The result also ended Zambian caretaker coach Aggrey Chiyangi’s 10-match unbeaten run since he took charge of the team.
It also meant Chipolopolo are still without an opening day victory in an AFCON qualifier since 2012 when they beat Uganda 1-0 in Ndola en-route to the 2013 finals in South Africa
Yet Chiyangi had told the ZamFoot Crew that his team would match the Desert Foxes.
‘‘The team is ready to take on Algeria and the confidence amongst the players is very high. All of them are ready and we are hoping for a better result,” the coach said before the match.
“So far we have missed the two AFCONs, we have to make sure that in this one we qualify because it will bring a lot of happiness to the people of Zambia.
“The gameplan will unfold on the pitch. Just like they have that thought (to win) on their mind, we also have another thought that we have missed the last two AFCONS, we must work hard.
“In football, anything can happen and everything has got a time that it starts, you never know it might be this time. The message to Algeria is that we know that they are the African Champions but again they must know that this is a new competition that is starting, they won the last AFCON.
“This one is starting.’’
However, the Zambian gaffer probably didn’t see the yawning gulf in class between the two teams.
Youcef Bellaili put on a man-of-the-match performance as he played part in three of the five goals with Baghdad Bounedjah scoring twice while Ramy Bensebaini and substitute Hilal Soudani scoring one each.
Bellaili scored once and assisted twice before being substituted in the 80th minute for Soudani who continued with the good work.
Playing at home, Algeria were in distinct form and they got into the lead in the 42nd minute when Bensebaini headed home Bellaili’s corner from close range.
The Algerians had won the corner after Zambian keeper Toaster Nsabata had pulled off a brilliant save to deny Manchester City’s Mahrez
Even before the goal, Les Fennecs had their chances with Bellaili hitting a shot wide after nine minutes while Bounedjah had a bouncing shot from inside the area go over.
The home side exploded in the second half and they got the second in the 67th minute when Bounedjah converted from the penalty spot after Bellaili was upended inside the area by Zambian skipper Kabaso Chongo.
Seven minutes later, the defending champions were 3-0 up and in brilliant fashion. Youcef Attal took on a drive from the right to the edge of the box and then teed up Bellaili on the right, the midfielder curling a belter into the top left corner.
Soudani then made it 4-0 in the 85th minute, just five minutes after coming on for Bellaili when he struck low inside the box after little interchange of passes with Bounedjah inside the box.
The lanky forward then made it 5-0 at the stroke of full-time with a cheeky dink over the keeper after being picked out with a brilliant defense splitting pass from skipper Mahrez.
Zambia and Algeria have met 15 times with Zambia winning seven and Algeria six, two games ending in draws.
The Zambians next match is against the Warriors of Zimbabwe at the National Heroes Stadium in Lusaka on Tuesday.
Chipolopolo have also been hit by some injuries and Austria-based striker Patrick Daka, who many felt could be rushed from the AFCON Under-23 finals in Egypt to help provide firepower for the game against Zimbabwe, has been ruled out after injuring his knee.
Meanwhile, 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 capitalised 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 the 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. — Agencies