FRANCEVILLE, Gabon, Jan 16- Sadio Mane scored from the penalty spot to send Senegal on their way to a 2-0 victory over Tunisia in their first outing at the Africa Cup of Nations on Sunday.
Mane netted from 12 yards with 10 minutes on the clock in Franceville and Kara Mbodj headed home on the half-hour mark as Senegal became the first team to win a game at this Cup of Nations after three previous matches ended in draws.
One of the favourites to win the trophy for the first time thanks to their status as Africa’s top-ranked nation, Senegal are now in control of Group B after Algeria were held to a 2-2 draw by Zimbabwe earlier in the day.
Senegal face Zimbabwe next on Thursday while Tunisia meet Algeria in a north African derby.
Liverpool winger Mane came third in the African player of the year awards behind winner Riyad Mahrez of Algeria and Gabon’s Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
Those two had scored in their countries’ opening games and Mane followed their example by getting the breakthrough, sending Tunisian goalkeeper Aymen Mathlouthi the wrong way from the spot after Aymen Abdennour had brought down Cheikhou Kouyate.
Anderlecht defender Mbodj then soared above the Tunisian defence to head home from a corner and leave the Eagles of Carthage facing an uphill struggle to get back in the game.
There was a rally in the second period sparked by Sunderland’s Wahbi Khazri, who almost netted direct from a corner, while Mbodj smashed the ball against his own bar when trying to clear.
Youssef Msakni was guilty of missing the target and was also denied by goalkeeper Abdoulaye Diallo as Senegal held firm.
Indeed, the Lions of Teranga could have netted again, substitute Ismaila Sarr seeing his misdirected cross come back off the bar with Mathlouthi beaten.