‘Man of the Match’ Mohamed Nbalie Kamara with Steven Caulker
By Mohamed Fajah Barrie in Douala
Sierra Leone marked their return to the Africa Cup of Nations with a goalless draw against defending Champions Algeria in the opening match of group E at the Japoma stadium in Douala on Tuesday.
Leone Stars who had been written-off by bookmakers had the better chances in the first half and should have taken the lead through Denmark-based Striker Alhaji Kamara who sent two chances narrowly wide.
The impressive Leone Stars goalkeeper Mohamed Kamara denied Yaccine Brahimi, Manchester City’s Ryad Mahrez, Ramy Bensebaini and Baghdad Bounedjah from scoring in the second half.
The Desert Foxes dominated the second half but met stiff resistance from the Leone Stars defenders particularly Steven Caulker who made crucial blocks to stop the Algerians from scoring.
Five minutes into the match Alhaji Kamara hit a shot wide just outside the box after a fine build-up and he also headed wide from Buya Turay’s free-kick taken from the left wing in the 22nd minute.
The former Kallon FC hitman had a goal cancelled for an offside just after the interval.
The Desert Warriors took complete control of the second half but failed to convert several chances. Bensebaini ran into the box and had his low shot saved by Kamara in the first minute of stoppage time after substitute Said Benrahma had shot wide in the 85th minute.
Bounedjah’s header from a corner kick almost at full time went straight to goalie Kamara who was named man of the match for his brilliant saves that saw him kept a clean sheet.
The Sierra Leonean players celebrated after the match while the Algerians left the pitch disappointed.
The two teams have now met six times with Sierra Leone winning one, Algeria recording two wins and two draws.
The result means that the Desert Warriors have now extended their unbeaten run to 35 senior internationals, getting closer to Italy’s world record of 37 matches without defeat
Both Algeria and Sierra Leone now have one pint each in group E, and will be in action again on Sunday when the former take on Equatorial Guinea while the later battle it out with Ivory Coast.
Algeria Line-up: No. 22 Adi-Rais Mboli (GK), No.2 Aissa Mandi, No. 7 Ryad Mahrez (Capt), No.8 Mohamed Youcef Belaili, No. 10 Sofiane Fergouli (No.15 Farid Boulaya 63’), No.11 Yacine Brahimi, No. 12 Haris Belkebla (N0.27 Said Benrahma 83’), No.13 Islam Slimani ( No.9 Baghdad Bounedjah 63’), No. 17 Abdel Kader Bedrane, No. 20 Youcef Atal (No. 14, Soufiane Bendebka 63’), No.21 Rami Bensibaini 83’)
Coach: Djamel Belmadi
Sierra Leone line up: No.1 Mohamed N. Kamara (GK), No.2 Osman Kakay, No.3 Kelvin Wright, No. 5 Steven Caulker, No.17 Umaru Bangura, No.6 John Kamara, No. 19 Mustapha Bundu, No. 7 Kwame Quee, No. 12 Alhaji Kamara (No.8 Saidu Fofanah 76’), No.10 Kei Kamara, No. 14 Mohamed Buya Turay (No.11 Sullay Kaikai 84’)
Coach: John Keister
Referee: Ahmad Heeralall (Mauritania)
AR 1: Soulaimane Amaldine (Comoros)
AR 2: Lionel Andrianantenaina (Madagascar)
VAR: Adil Zourak (Morocco)
AVAR: Zakaria Brinzi (Morocco)
Fourth Official: Pacifique Ndabihawenimana (Burundi)
MC: Jean Claude Nyongabo (Burundi)
General Coordinator: Khaled Lemkecher (Tunisia)