African champions Senegal proved their worth as they seek a return to defend their TotalEnergies Africa Cup of Nations title after a well worked 3-1 victory over Benin in their first match of the 2023 qualification.
Voted best player at the just concluded Cup of Nations in Cameroon, Sadio Mane was Senegal’s star man. Mane scored a hatrick, including two penalties to help Senegal to the important victory at home.
Mane broke the deadlock after 10 minutes when he converted from the penalty spot after a handball inside the box. The goal boosted Senegal’s confidence and Mane doubled the tally minutes later after a good combination with Pope Matar Sarr.
His initial shot was blocked but on the second bite of the cherry, he ensured he didn’t make a mistake.
The Beninese tried to get back into the game and had chances but Tidjani Anane and Steve Mounié saw their efforts stopped by Edouard Mendy.
Senegal continued to dominate in the second half. From a deep pass, Ismaila Sarr picked the ball inside the box but was hacked down by the Beninese goalkeeper. Mane stood over the spot kick and made no mistake.
Benin’s day went from bad to worse when a few minutes later, Sessi D’Almeida was red carded for stopping Mané as the last man in defense as he sped off towards goal.
Benin pulled one back with four minutes left When Junior Olaïtan found the back of the net. However, it only counted for consolation.
Mauritania 3-0 Sudan
Aboubakar Kamara scored a first half brace to help Mauritania beat Sudan 3-0 in their opening Group I match of the 2023 TotalEnergies Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers at the State Olympique in Nouakchott on Saturday.
Abdallahi Mahmoud added a third mate in the second half to give Mauritania a perfect start and new coach Amir Abdou three massive points as he looks for a second consecutive Cup of Nations appearance as coach.
Abdou was appointed to head the Mauritanian national team after his impresssive performance with Comoros last January in Cameroon and the victory on Saturday puts him in a perfect bounce on the road to the 2023 showpiece.
Kamara broke the deadlock in the 27th minute from the penalty spot to give his side the start they yearned for after a good start.
Three minutes later, the burly goal poacher doubled his tally and that of his side finishing off a pass from Mouhamed Soueid.
With a two goal cushion, the home side was confident and played with more control despite Susan’s attempt to get a way back into the contest.
In the second half, the Sudanese Falcons of Jediane returned with fire under their boots but were thwarted by an organized Mauritania.
With 13 minutes left on the clock, Mahmoud wrapped up the massive win to ascertain the three points remained in Nouakchott.
Mauritania now lead the group with three points, ahead of Gabon on goals after the latter beat DR Congo by a slim 1-0 margin.