MALABO, Equatorial Guinea (AP) – Algeria secured its passage to the African Cup quarterfinals alongside Ghana on Tuesday after rekindling some of the attacking flair that took it to the second round of last year’s World Cup.
The top-ranked team in Africa at No 18 scored early and late in a 2-0 victory over Senegal at Malabo Stadium. Ghana, which was closer to elimination than advancement with less than 20 minutes to go, scored two late goals to also progress from Group C with a 2-1 win over South Africa in Mongomo.
“It was not easy to get out of this group,” said Algeria coach Christian Gourcuff, a Frenchman who took over in August.
In the last 16 of the World Cup in Brazil, Algeria came as close as anyone to knocking out eventual champion Germany with some attractive, attacking soccer.
Although the Algerians failed to really shine in their first two matches in Equatorial Guinea, the team came out attacking and dominated the opening 20 minutes against Senegal, taking the lead with an 11th-minute goal from Riyad Mahrez after a long free kick.
Nabil Bentaleb, taking a pass from Sofiane Feghouli, added the other in the 82nd as the defense held firm against an increasingly penetrating Senegalese attack.
“It was an excessively difficult game physically,” Gourcuff said. “We needed lots of discipline tactically and our technique and speed on the break helped us win.”
After the match, Senegal coach Alain Giresse had to be escorted out of the news conference room following a heated exchange between the team’s media officer and some journalists. Giresse said his contract as coach was over.
Ghana trailed South Africa in Mongomo after a spectacular looping volley from Mandla Masango gave Bafana Bafana the lead in the 17th minute. But the four-time champions turned things around with John Boye scoring from close range in the 73rd and Andrew Ayew heading in the winner 10 minutes later.
From nearly out to group winners, Ghana will now face the second-place team in Group D on Sunday in Malabo. Algeria will play the Group D winner on the same day and at the same stadium.
All four teams in Group D, including the Ivory Coast and Cameroon, still have a chance to qualify. The Ivorians will face Cameroon on Wednesday in Malabo while Mali plays Guinea in Mongomo.
“I think with this team we can face any team in this competition,” Ghana captain Asamoah Gyan said.
South Africa finished last in the group with only point, that coming from a 1-1 draw with Senegal.