Mahrez, Aubameyang, Mane net on road to Africa Cup of Nations finals

Algeria lived up to their status as continental champions by beating Zimbabwe 3-1 on Thursday to keep up their 100% record in qualifying for the Africa Cup of Nations, due to take place in 2022.

Baghdad Bounedjah, Sofiane Feghouli and Riyad Mahrez were the scorers in Algiers as the 2019 champions overpowered their visitors, for whom Tino Kadewere pulled back a consolation goal.

Also in Group H, the 2012 champions Zambia picked up their first points of the campaign by edging Botswana 2-1 in Lusaka with Collins Sikombe tapping in at the back post for a 67th-minute winner.

Ghana also reached the halfway stage of the preliminaries with three wins out of three to move closer to securing a berth in the finals. Captain Andre Ayew scored twice as they beat Sudan 2-0 at Cape Coast to stay top in Group C. He rifled in a spectacular 19th-minute free kick and thundered home a strike from just outside the box in the last nine minutes.

Ivory Coast pulled level with Madagascar in Group K as they beat the Indian Ocean islanders 2-1 at their new stadium on the outskirts of Abidjan. Veteran Gervinho, who made his national team debut 13 years ago, opened the scoring and debutant Sebastien Haller added a second before Paulin Voavy pulled one back for Madagascar.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was among the scorers as Gabon went top in Group D with a 2-1 home win over the Gambia.

Lassina Traore scored twice for Burkina Faso as they beat Malawi 3-1 in Ouagadougou and joined Uganda on seven points in Group B. Uganda defeated minnows South Sudan 1-0 with an 86th minute goal from Halid Lwaliwa.

Vincent Aboubakar scored the opening two goals for Cameroon as they easily dealt with Mozambique in a 4-1 victory in Group F in Douala. The other goals came from Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa and Clinton Njie while Kamo-Kamo netted a consolation for the visitors. Cameroon will host the next finals but are participating in Group F where the highest finisher, aside from the Indomitable Lions, also qualifies. Mozambique remain second after the Cape Verde Islands and Rwanda played out a goalless draw in Praia.

Congo moved into second place in Group I after goals in the last 13 minutes from Prince Ibarra and substitute Junior Makiesse that saw them eventually break down a stubborn Eswatini 2-0 in Brazzaville.

On Wednesday. Sadio Mane made a successful return for Senegal as they beat Guinea Bissau 2-0 to edge closer to qualification. Mane, who missed Senegal's friendly against Morocco last month after he tested positive for COVID-19, opened the scoring from the penalty spot as they beat Guinea Bissau in Thies to keep up their 100% record in Group I. Opa Nguette swept the ball into the net with his first touch after coming on as a substitute for Senegal's second goal after a defensive slip.

But it was the tiny Comoros Islands who stole the spotlight on Wednesday. The Indian Ocean archipelago with a population under one million, who have only been playing competitive international football since 2006, drew 1-1 away against Kenya in Nairobi despite being down to 10 men for much of the match. Youssouf M'Changama netted a 26th-minute free kick but was then sent off after receiving two cautions, the second for time wasting, leaving the visitors down to 10 men before half-time.

Kenya equalised through Masud Juma in the 65th minute for a third successive draw in Group G where the unbeaten Comoros, seeking qualification for the first time, lead with five points.

Saido Berahino equalised 10 minutes from full-time with a superb free kick to give Burundi a 1-1 away draw at Mauritania and their first point in Group E.

Guinea were expecting a more convincing win at home against bottom-placed Chad in their Group A game but in the end they won 1-0 after Mady Camara's first-half strike. Guinea, however, remain on course to qualify having secured seven out of a possible nine points at the halfway point of the qualifiers.

The top two teams in each of the 12 groups advance to the finals except in Group F where the highest finisher besides Cameroon, already qualified as hosts but also playing in the preliminaries, goes through.