Sadio Mane took full advantage of his ability to represent his nation as Senegal beat Togo 2-0 on home soil in their opening Group H encounter as Africa’s second round of World Cup qualifying began on Tuesday.
After blazing over the bar in the first half, Mane played a neat one-two before poking home just before the hour as the Liverpool star opened the scoring.
While Mane is free to play since his two matches are in countries that are not on the British government’s Covid red list, club colleague Mohamed Salah could not play at home to Angola on Wednesday as Egypt is on the list.
Unburdened by the threat of having to quarantine for 10 days upon his return to England, Mane was lively throughout in a game wrapped up when Abdou Diallo lashed home after a corner nine minutes from time.
The victory represents a modicum of revenge for the Senegalese, who could not beat Togo as the Sparrowhawks pipped them to the 2006 World Cup when they last met at this stage.
Senegal travel to Congo on Tuesday, while Togo seek their first points at home to Namibia on Sunday.
Without their star man in an empty yet cavernous Cairo arena, Egypt had to rely on a fifth-minute penalty from Mohamed Magdy Morsy against a busy Angolan side who fought to the very end.
The visitors will rue missed chances and a vain penalty claim as they failed to take advantage of the notable absence of Salah, who could play in Gabon next week.
While the Pharaohs’ place at the top of Group F may be little surprise, that of Libya is but the North Africans earned a much-savoured 2-1 win against Gabon on the plastic pitch of Benghazi.
The visitors led early through Andre Biyogo Poko only for Libya to respond through Ali Alamami near the half hour before Sand Masaud netted a dramatic last-minute winner.
The win was masterminded by Javier Clemente who returned earlier this year to a role he served between 2013-2016, during which he won Libya’s first African title.
Elsewhere, it ended 1-1 as neighbours Guinea-Bissau and Guinea met in a World Cup qualifier for the first time in 25 years.
The game should have been played in Bissau but as the stadium there was deemed unfit by the Confederation of African Football (Caf) last month, it took place in Mauritania.
An available Liverpool player was again in the thick of the action as Naby Keita – available for both Guinea’s games – teed up Francois Kamano for the opener before Joseph Mendes earned both sides a point in Group I.
Credit: BBC.COM/AFRICA SPORT