by Juma Pondamali
A smooth Algeria on Sunday night effortlessly swiped aside Kenya 2-0 in their Group “C” match in Cairo in the national team’s first match of the tournament.
A penalty slotted home by Qatari league top scorer Baghdad Bounedjah in the 37th minute and a sublime finish by Manchester City midfielder Riyad Mahrez five minutes later gave the Desert Foxes a comfortable win over the Stars.
The Desert Foxes started the game hot on Kenya’s heels, with Manchester City star and Galatasaray forward Sofiane Fegouli forcing early bookings for Stars’ pair Aboud Omar and Philemon Otieno.
Algeria’s Ramy Benselbaini’s crosses were a constant pain in Kenya’s defence, with the left-back linking up well with Youcef Belaini to create problems down the wing.
Kenya’s Ayub Timbe’s efforts to run at Algeria’s defence were fruitless, with Mahrez’s and Youcef Atal’s run’s down the left restricting him to his own half for better parts of the game.
Baghdad Bounedjah slotted in from the penalty spot in three minutes past the half-hour mark after Otieno’s foul on Atal inside the 18-yard box.
The second half started with the Algerians seemingly taking a gear off their stride, tossing the ball around the pitch with Kenya looking to catch them on the break.
Gor Mahia’s Francis Kahata came off for Vasalunds’ Eric Ouma ‘Marcelo’ at the start of the second period with Migne looking to find some attacking inspiration down the left.
The Foxes boasted more than 63 per cent ball possession by the hour mark, having made significant attempts at the Stars’ defense more at least 10 times.
Djamel Belmadi’s men made life difficult for Kenya, drawing most fouls close to the final third.
Mehdi Abeid and FC Porto star Yacine Brahimi came in as substitutes for the industrious Adlene Guedioura and Youcef Belaili respectively 20 minutes to full time, with Kenya taking off IF Brommapojkarna’s Eric Johanna Omondi for Cercle Brugge’s Johanna Omollo.
The game was cagey in the last 10 minutes, with Harambee Stars averaging double the number of fouls Algeria committed.
Goalscorer Bounedjah was replaced by Montpellier forward Andy Delort in the 81st minute as the Foxes looked to take the game away from the East Africans.
Kenya looked to pounce of Algeria’s recklessness late in the game with Johanna Omondi almost handing the boys a consolation.
With three minutes of added time, Las Palmas midfielder Ismael Gonzalez came in to replace Odhiambo.
The win leaves Algeria on top of Group C with 3 points, level on points with Senegal who beat Tanzania 2-0 in an earlier fixture.
The Lions of Teranga will face the Desert Foxes in the group’s next encounter as Harambee Stars take on East African neighbours Tanzania in three days.
Harambee Stars did not even manage a shot at goal throughout the 90 minutes confirming the worst fears that coach Migne may have left his best striker, Allan Lwanga, home.