Algeria got off to a winning start in CAF African Cup of Nations (AFCON) Group C with a come-from-behind 3-1 triumph over South Africa in Mongomo.
It was an impressive fightback by the Desert Foxes, who went top of the table on goal difference in the group of death after Senegal defeated Ghana 2-1 earlier. Goals from Faouzi Ghoulam and Islam Slimani won a lively match for the top-ranked African team after a Thulani Hlatshwayo own-goal wiped out the lead Thuso Phala gave South Africa.
Tokelo Rantie wasted a great chance to double the advantage for Bafana Bafana (The Boys) almost immediately by firing a penalty over off the crossbar. Algeria started with 11 of the squad that reached the second round of the 2014 FIFA World Cup™ in Brazil and forced eventual champions Germany into extra time before bowing out.
South Africa had to do without suspended defensive colossus Erick Mathoho with Rivaldo Coetzee and Hlatshwayo manning the central positions. The Desert Foxes were more impressive in the early exchanges, retaining possession and pushing forward without seriously troubling goalkeper Darren Keet.
But when full-back Ghoulam was presented with a long-range free-kick opportunity, he fired the ball straight at the South African shot-stopper. Striker Rantie from English second-tier league leaders Bournemouth was proving menacing at the other end and twice threatened the Algerians with his pace.
Captain Dean Furman came agonisingly close to ending the stalemate midway through the opening half by unleashing an explosive shot from outside the box. Goalkeeper Rais Mbolhi got the slightest of touches to the rising, swerving shot and it proved crucial as the ball cannoned back into play off the crossbar.
Mbolhi twice rescued the Foxes as half-time approached, dispossessing Sibusiso Vilakazi and then blocking an Andile Jali shot with his leg. A Rantie back-heel set up Phala to break the deadlock on 51 minutes with a close-range shot wide of Mbolhi. Then a Rantie spot-kick flew over off the crossbar after Aissa Mandi fouled Vilakazi.
Back came Algeria and Slimani was denied by Keet and then by the post. However, the North Africans scored twice within six minutes midway through the second half to turn the tide. Hlatshwayo headed a cross into his own net and a fierce Ghoulam shot flew past Keet.
An Algerian victory was wrapped up seven minutes from time as Keet allowed a Slimani shot to slip under his body and into the net.