Picture : Mohamed Kamara, Sierra Leone's Goalkeeper and Kelechi Iheanacho, Nigeria's Goalscorer, were the heroes of day 3.

Sierra Leone surprise Algeria with draw in group E opener.

In what was tipped to be a dress rehearsal for the defending champions, Algeria, unbeaten in 34 straight games, but they rather barely survived the potent determination from the hitherto underdogs back to the AFCON finals after more than 25 years. Sierra Leone did score an offside goal on 48 minutes which was matched by an ultimate second attempt by Algeria who found keeper Mohamed Kamara insoluble on several occasions. The Sierra Leonean keeper, voted man-of-the-match later described the 0-0 draw as the surprise performance which has transformed them from partakers to challengers. 

In the first group D game, Egypt and Nigeria predictably raised the standard of the tournament in a highly competitive game that registered a Nigerian 1-0 victory. The scorer on 30 minutes, Kelechi Iheanacho, with a connection of a Simon Moses cutback was voted man-of-the-match. He later thanked God for the achievement before saying that he and his teammates would take each match at a time. Captain Mohamed Salah of Egypt was clearly under lock and key as the Egyptians vainly tried feeding him with balls. They also justifiably laid claim to an invalidated penalty  on 81 minutes after the referee communicated with the VAR team without going to verify himself. In the second group game, Ali Abdalla Aboeshren became the second goalkeeper on the day to emerge most valuable player when he parried the 82nd minute penalty taken by Guinea Bissau’s Tuncara Gomes. It was a match in which both sides sweated it out fully only to close on a  0-0 tie. Both Guinea Bissau and Sudan confronted both sides for the first time in the history of the tournament, sharing the spoils at 50/50 and settling on the 2nd and 3rd spots behind Nigeria but ahead of Egypt.

Day-1 of the tournament concludes this Wednesday with the two group F fixtures at Limbe: Tunisia vs Mali at 2 p.m. and Mauritania vs Gambia at 5 p.m. The second group E game, Ivory Coast versus Equatorial Guinea holds at the Japoma Stadium at 8 p.m.