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Iheanacho stunner sinks Salah’s Egypt

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Kelechi Iheanacho overshadowed fellow Premier League stars Mohamed Salah and Riyad Mahrez on Tuesday as Nigeria made a winning start to their Africa Cup of Nations campaign and title-holders Algeria were held.

The Leicester City forward scored the only goal on 30 minutes as the Super Eagles overcame lacklustre Egypt 1-0 in a clash of Group D big guns in the northwestern city of Garoua.

His match-winner and overall performance earned Iheanacho the man-of-the-match award on a day when prolific Liverpool scorer Salah and Manchester City winger Mahrez failed to sparkle.

Captain Salah cut an isolated, frustrated, figure at the Stade Roumde Adjia and when he did get a scoring chance in the second half, his prod was saved by the boot of goalkeeper Maduka Okoye.

It was an otherwise uneventful evening for the Nigeria shot-stopper, who must have anticipated being called into action more often against the record seven-time African champions.

This was the eighth meeting of the Super Eagles and the Pharaohs in the flagship African tournament and three-time Cup of Nations champions Nigeria have won four and drawn two.

Nigeria succeeded after a troubled build-up in which German coach Gernot Rohr was fired following an unimpressive World Cup qualifying run and former national star Augustine Eguavoen took temporary charge.

Eguavoen’s squad was without forwards Victor Osimhen, Emmanuel Dennis and Odion Ighalo for a variety of reasons, but his team went on the offensive from the kick-off and did him proud.

Speedy winger Moses Simon played a major role when the Super Eagles took the lead at the 30,000-capacity stadium.

His cross was only partially cleared by Ahmed Hegazy and Nigerian Joseph Aribo nodded the ball into the path of Iheanacho, who hammered a half-volley past goalkeeper Mohamed Elshenawy.

Fortunately for Egypt they will face potentially weaker opponents Guinea-Bissau and Sudan in their remaining mini-league matches and should reach the round of 16.

Algeria were hot favourites to win the opening Group E match against Sierra Leone, a lowly ranked team making a first Cup of Nations appearance since 1996.

But captain Mahrez could not inspire his team in the Atlantic port city of Douala and several excellent saves by Sierra Leone goalkeeper Mohamed Kamara saw him voted man of the match.

His finest moment came during the second half when Yacine Brahimi broke through, but the goalkeeper held his shot at the second attempt.

Ivory Coast, considered the biggest threat to Algeria in the section, face Equatorial Guinea on Wednesday in a match offering both teams a chance to top the table.

The draw did allow Algeria to extend their remarkable unbeaten run in competitive action to 35 games, just two shy of Italy’s record of 37 without defeat.

The heat and humidity of a mid-afternoon kick-off at the Japoma Stadium didn’t help, but Sierra Leone deserve enormous credit for their display.

“We were up against well organised opponents and the weather conditions were difficult. It was very, very hot and extremely humid,” said Algeria coach Djamel Belmadi.

“We are close to Italy’s unbeaten record, which is good. We are unbeaten in three years, but we don’t think about that ahead of every game. We just wanted to win today.”

England-born Sierra Leone coach John Keister said: “We are here to do our thing. Whether we are a surprise in this tournament remains to be seen. I don’t want to get carried away after one game.”

Algeria face Equatorial Guinea on Sunday, and the Ivory Coast meet Sierra Leone the same day.

AFP

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Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang provides update after return to Arsenal for heart tests

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Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has confirmed he’s “absolutely fine” after returning to London for health checks.

The Arsenal forward was away at AFCON with Gabon when he experienced some heart issues.

A scan revealed possible issues after Aubameyang tested positive for Covid 19 in the lead up to the tournament.

The Gunners recalled the 32-year-old, who is currently not being selected by Mikel Arteta following a disciplinary breach.

Aubameyang has taken to social media to share that he is “completely healthy” following further tests.

He said on Instagram : “Hi guys, I came back to London to do some additional checks, and I’m very happy to say that my heart is absolutely fine and I’m completely healthy!! Really appreciate all the messages over the last few days and I’m already back at it”

Gabon boss Patrice Neveu revealed that Arsenal were keen to get their player back once news of his possible issues broke.

He said, as quoted by Sky Sports : “What I know is that they’ve been Covid free for the last 72 hours. We couldn’t arrange an MRI for them, and as a result they couldn’t train.

“It was really annoying for them to stay in their rooms. We made the decision yesterday with the President and under pressure from the clubs too, because they’re worried so that [Aubameyang] should go back to Arsenal and Mario [Lemina] back to Nice.”

Despite Mikel Arteta’s recent shunning of the forward, Neveu did admit that it was the club’s right to recall their player.

Aubameyang is currently out of the first team picture as his future remains up in the air.

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AFCON 2021: Nigeria to play Tunisia in Round of 16

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Nigeria will take on Tunisia in the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations Africa Cup of Nations Round of 16.

This was confirmed on Thursday, following the completion of all group games in the competition.

The Super Eagles finished top of Group D ahead of Egypt, Sudan and Guinea-Bissau.

The Carthage Eagles lost 1-0 to Gambia in their final Group F clash.

Nigeria’s match against Tunisia will be played on Saturday, January 23.

Kick off is 8pm.

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Novak Djokovic in talks to sue Australian government for ‘ill treatment’

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Novak Djokovic is discussing with lawyers about suing the Australian government for £3.2million for “ill treatment”.

The unvaccinated tennis star, 34, claimed he had a visa exemption but was deported before the Australian Open.

The damages of £3.2million includes the £2.3million prize money the world No?1 tennis player expected to have won.

According to The Sun, a source close to his agent Edoardo Artladi said: “It’s well known that Novak and his family feel he was poorly treated in the quarantine hotel in Melbourne.

“His mother revealed how it was full of fleas and maggots. He was kept a virtual prisoner.”

Lawyer Toma Fila added: “He was subjected to humiliating treatment. He should sue.”

Djokovic is back home in Belgrade, Serbia.

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