JOHANNESBURG, South Africa, Nov 11 – Sadio Mane scored the first goal and created the second as Senegal stayed on course to reach the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations finals with a 2-0 home win over Guinea-Bissau Wednesday.
Guinea edged dogged Chad 1-0, Burundi surprised Mauritania by forcing a late draw and Kenya could manage only a 1-1 draw with 10-man Comoros in other qualifiers.
The matches were the first since last November in the Cup of Nations qualifiers as the coronavirus pandemic severely disrupted the African international schedule.
A limited number of socially-distanced spectators were permitted in Mauritania while the other matches went ahead behind closed doors.
Liverpool star Mane converted a penalty just before half-time in Thies near Dakar to give Group I leaders Senegal a half-time advantage.
Victory for the Teranga Lions was sealed on 74 minutes when Mane set up Opa Nguette to score just two minutes after he had come off the bench.
Senegal, whose best Cup of Nations showings were finishing runners-up in 2002 and 2019, are the top-ranked country in Africa and lie 97 places above Guinea-Bissau in the world listings.
The Senegalese have a maximum nine points from three matches in a mini-league they seem certain to win, Congo Brazzaville and Guinea-Bissau have three each and eSwatini none.
Meanwhile, Mauritania rank among the most improved African national teams over the past five years with much of the credit belonging to French coach Corentin Martins.
They hit a bump on the road to the Cup of Nations finals, however, when conceding 11 minutes from time after Bakary N’Diaye had given them the lead on 30 minutes in Nouakchott.
Substitute Saido Berahino equalised for Burundi, giving Jimmy Ndayizeye a satisfactory start as coach and the Swallows a first Group E point.
Mauritania have five points, Morocco four, the Central African Republic three and Burundi one, but the frontrunners will view the draw as two points lost rather than one gained.
Greece-based Mady Camara, who is attracting attention from clubs in bigger European leagues, netted in the final minute of the opening half to earn pacesetters Guinea a three-point Group A lead.
The Guineans, who kicked off against lowly ranked Chad in Conakry leading Mali on goal difference, found the going as tough as French coach Didier Six expected.
“There are no longer any weak teams,” warned the former star before the match. “In Africa, the playing field levels out towards the top and not the bottom.”