MONGOMO, Equatorial Guinea (AFP) -Algeria and Senegal secured come-from-behind victories on Monday as the Africa Cup of Nations group of death sprang to life with seven goals in a Mongomo double-header.
Title favourites Algeria trailed South Africa and could have been even further behind before an own-goal set up a 3-1 Group C triumph.
Slow-starting Senegal also trailed only to snatch a 2-1 win over Ghana via a Moussa Sow goal three minutes into stoppage time.
The results left Algeria top of the table on goal difference and, if they defeat Ghana on Friday and Senegal conquer South Africa, the battle for last-eight places will be over.
An impressive 2014 World Cup campaign and five consecutive qualifying victories elevated Algeria to the unwanted role of favourites among the media.
But for 65 minutes at a packed 15,000-seat Estadio Mongomo in eastern Equatorial Guinea, a South African side boasting an unbeaten 10-match record under coach Ephraim ‘Shakes’ Mashaba had the edge.
Captain Dean Furman slammed a first-half shot off the woodwork and after Thuso Phala put Bafana Bafana (The Boys) ahead, Tokelo Rantie watched his spot-kick fly over off the crossbar.
Algeria then piled on the pressure and Thulani Hlatshwayo headed a cross into his own net before Faouzi Ghoulam and Islam Slimani scored for the rampant Desert Foxes.
France-born Algeria coach Christian Gourcuff said: “The penalty miss was a turning point because at two goals behind we would have been in trouble.
“I would have liked more control of the game … we lacked rhythm at times.”
Mashaba, meanwhile, was upbeat despite his first loss in the job: “The best team lost. We created a lot of chances in the first half, but after missing the penalty everything went awry.”