Baghdad Bounedjah bagged a brace as two-time champions Algeria came from behind twice to draw 2-2 with Burkina Faso on Saturday in an Africa Cup of Nations Group D thriller.
The Qatar-based forward, who struck the winner in the 2019 final against Senegal, cancelled goals by Mohamed Konate and Bertrand Traore before a 33,000 crowd in sweltering Bouake.
In the second match of a double-header, Angola edged Mauritania 3-2 in an equally entertaining clash to end a nine-match winless run from 2012.
Later, a Group E clash of top 10-ranked teams Tunisia and Mali in Korhogo failed to match expectations and ended in a dour 1-1 draw.
Angola and Burkina Faso have four points each, Algeria two and Mauritania none in a section where all four teams are still in contention for last-16 places with one round remaining.
Long-serving Algeria coach Djamel Belmadi, the mastermind behind the 2019 triumph, said he was satisfied with the draw in 36 Celsius (97 Fahrenheit) heat.
“Burkina Faso dominated the first half but we came back strongly in the second and might have won as there were suspicions of a handball in the area.
“We had more of the scoring chances only to be let down by the lack of a killer instinct. I promise that there will be a much improved performance against Mauritania on Tuesday.
“Through suffering we have achieved previous successes against the odds. My players can take us far in this competition.”
Burkina Faso, who finished second, third and fourth in three of the last five editions, were praised by France-born coach Hubert Velud.
“It was a beautiful game and we performed well and were on the verge of winning when a lack of concentration led to us conceding a second goal.
“I was really impressed with our efficiency and the way the game plan was executed. We just need to work on a few minor details.”
– Attacking feast –
A Konate header in first-half added time broke the stalemate and Bounedjah tapped the ball into the net after a goalmouth scramble soon after half-time.
Out-of-favour Aston Villa forward Bertrand Traore came off the bench to convert a penalty before Bounedjah equalised again, this time with a powerful 95th-minute header after a corner.
Angola versus Mauritania might have been the least attractive of the three matches on Saturday on paper with both teams outside the top 20-ranked teams in Africa.
But they delivered a feast of attacking football with two superb Mauritanian goals not enough to prevent Angola going top of the table on goals scored.
Gelson Dala struck for Angola before a superb solo run and shot by Sidi Bouna Amar brought the teams level as half-time approached.
Another excellent individual goal, this time from Dala, was quickly followed by a third for Angola as a Gilberto shot on 53 minutes was deflected over goalkeeper Babacar Niasse.
Fears that Mauritania might collapse were quickly dispelled as a Aboubakary Koita thunderbolt gave goalkeeper Neblu no chance.
Seeking a first Cup of Nations win, Mauritania applied constant pressure, but Angola held firm and are poised to reach the knockout stage for the first time since 2010.
Much was expected from Tunisia and Mali in Group E, but after a goal from each side within 20 minutes of the kick-off, the match offered little excitement.
Lassine Sinayoko put Mali ahead on 10 minutes with a shot that went into the net off the far post and Hamza Rafia levelled 10 minutes later from close range.
There was little else to cheer a near-capacity crowd in the 20,000-seat stadium before Tottenham Hotspur midfielder Yves Bissouma fired an added-time free-kick wide.
Mali have four points, Namibia three, Tunisia one and South Africa none ahead of a clash between the southern Africa neighbours on Sunday.
After a shock victory over Tunisia, Namibia will reach the knockout stage for the first time if they collect maximum points again.
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