- Associated Press - Sunday, June 14, 2015

Asamoah Gyan scored twice as Ghana beat Mauritius 7-1 in the first round of African Cup of Nations qualifying on Sunday.

Cameroon needed a last-minute winner from Vincent Aboubakar to edge Mauritania 1-0. Seven-time African champion Egypt beat Tanzania 3-0.

Ghana, Cameroon and Egypt join Tunisia, Mali, Algeria and Senegal as some of the early group leaders.

Gyan and fellow forward Jordan Ayew both scored a brace for the Black Stars in the third lopsided win of the opening round. Tunisia beat Djibouti 8-1 on Friday and Cape Verde won 7-1 over Sao Tome on Saturday.

Defending African champion Ivory Coast drew 0-0 with Gabon at home in a friendly. Gabon automatically qualified as the 2017 African Cup host but has been included in the qualifying competition as the fourth team in Group I. Its games don’t count toward the group standings.

Porto striker Aboubakar was denied a good penalty appeal and also had a goal disallowed for offside before finally rescuing Cameroon at home with the winner in the 90th minute.

Cameroon’s hard-fought victory over minnow Mauritania didn’t spare coach Volker Finke from some tough criticism from the home fans in Yaounde. Supporters chanted “Finke, go home!” as the Cameroonians again struggled under the German coach, having been knocked out in the group stages of this year’s Cup of Nations.

“We’re just trying to build up a team that will produce results,” Finke said. “Beautiful football will come later.”

Cameroon was missing Schalke pair Joel Matip and Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting. But the victory, however unconvincing, put Cameroon ahead of group rival South Africa, which drew 0-0 with Gambia on Saturday.

Ghana’s top players delivered in Accra in their first qualifier for 2017. Gyan, Ayew, Christian Atsu, Jeffrey Schlupp and David Accam all found the net against Mauritius. Ghana, the losing finalist to Ivory Coast in this year’s African Cup in February, led 5-1 at halftime.

“It was an incredible performance. It was a good start for our campaign,” Gyan said.

Egypt had to wait for an hour before breaking the deadlock against Tanzania. Rami Rabia headed Egypt in front in the 60th minute and Bassem Morsi and Fiorentina’s Mohamed Salah added two more goals in the next nine minutes, with Salah’s an exquisite lob to round off the victory.

The game was played before an empty stadium outside Alexandria. Fans were banned from both national team and local league games following a deadly riot in the city of Port Said in 2012 that left 74 people dead. The ban was partially lifted last February, but quickly reinstated after a stampede that authorities said killed at least 19 people before a league game.

Africa’s most successful team, Egypt hasn’t reached the African Cup finals since winning its last title in 2010. The Egyptians moved above Nigeria on goals scored in their group.

Emmanuel Adebayor ended a tumultuous week by scoring in the 89th-minute to give Togo a 2-1 win at home against Liberia. Adebayor had been threatened with expulsion from the Togo squad after leaving the team hotel in the week without permission. New coach Tom Saintfiet gave the Tottenham striker a second chance and he delivered just in time as Togo came from 1-0 down to win.

Also Sunday, Congo battled to beat Madagascar 2-1 and Republic of Congo and Kenya drew 1-1. Ethiopia came from behind to beat Lesotho 2-1 with goals in the last 22 minutes by Gatoch Panom and Saladin Said. The game was played in heavy rain, forcing thousands of supporters to leave the stands at the newly-built 60,000-seat stadium in the northern city of Bahir Dar to seek shelter.

Equatorial Guinea came back for a 1-1 draw with Benin with captain Emilio Nsue’s equalizer. Niger beat Namibia 1-0. Rwanda beat Mozambique 1-0 away in Maputo.

In Ivory Coast’s group, Sudan beat Sierra Leone 1-0.

Africa’s hopefuls have been grouped into 13 groups of four teams. Group winners and the two best second-place teams will qualify for the Cup of Nations. The qualifying competition runs until September 2016.

___

Associated Press writers Francis Kokutse, Divine Ntaryike, Saleh Mwanamilongo, Louis Okamba and Elias Meseret contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC.

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