CAPE TOWN, South Africa: Sadio Mane put his World Cup disappointment behind him by scoring on his return to international action as Senegal swept past Mozambique 5-1 in African Cup of Nations qualifying on Friday.
Mane darted behind the defense to poke home a pass by Youssouf Sabaly with his left foot for the reigning African champion’s second goal in Dakar.
Mohamed Salah netted Egypt’s opener in a 2-0 win over Malawi.
And there was also a successful return for Ivory Coast striker Sebastien Haller, who scored to help his country beat Comoros 3-1 in his first international since his comeback after receiving treatment for testicular cancer.
Mane smiled as he celebrated his goal with teammates, who had to do without their star player at the World Cup last year after he was injured just before the tournament.
Without Mane, Senegal was knocked out by England in the round of 16 at the World Cup. But the convincing win over Mozambique, Mane’s first game for Senegal since before the World Cup, kept the Cup of Nations titleholder at the top of Group L with three wins from three and on course to qualify for the continental championship next year in Ivory Coast.
Sabaly scored the first goal in the ninth minute, Mane made it two in the 16th, and Iliman Ndiaye and Boulaye Dia ensured Senegal led 4-0 at halftime. Habib Diallo sent a diving header in for the fifth with two minutes to go.
Gildo Vilanculos got Mozambique’s only goal when he headed a parry by Alfred Gomis straight back past the Senegal goalkeeper to make it 4-1 early in the second half.
Senegal didn’t allow that to threaten its dominance and controlled the rest of the game, with Mane at one point urging his team not to settle for 4-1 and go forward in search of more goals. Diallo eventually delivered one.
Salah took his goal with a first-time shot from a cross in the 20th minute to give Egypt the lead against Malawi in Cairo. Omar Marmoush was credited with the second but his low shot took a wicked deflection off a Malawi defender and looped over goalkeeper Charles Thom.
Egypt had 21 shots to Malawi’s five and 75 percent possession, and the win revived the record seven-time African champion’s qualifying campaign after it lost to Ethiopia in the last round to slip to the bottom of Group D on goal difference.
Earlier Friday, Nigeria struggled to a 1-0 loss at home to Guinea-Bissau, ending the Super Eagles’ winning start to qualifying and seeing Guinea-Bissau take top spot in Group A. Nigeria aare still in position to qualify for the African Cup as the top two teams from each group qualify.
South Africa cruised to a 2-0 lead over Liberia with a double by striker Lyle Foster, but Liberia fought back for a draw with Mohammed Sangare’s equalizer coming in injury time at Soccer City in Soweto. That hurt South Africa’s hopes of qualifying and deeply frustrated coach Hugo Broos, who walked out of a news conference after telling reporters he wouldn’t answer any of their questions.
“There is too much disappointment, too much frustration, too much anger in my body,” Broos said. “If I should say now what I think, it would not be nice.”