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BOUAKE, IVORY COAST: Algeria were held to a 1-1 draw by Angola in their opening game at the Africa Cup of Nations on Monday, with a second-half Mabululu penalty denying the 2019 champions a winning start.

Baghdad Bounedjah gave Algeria the lead after 18 minutes in Bouake, Ivory Coast’s second city, and the striker then had a stunning second goal disallowed for a tight offside call soon after.

Unable to put the game to bed, Riyad Mahrez’s Algeria were pegged back midway through the second half as substitute Mabululu converted from the spot after he had been brought down inside the area.

Algeria, who also won the AFCON in 1990 but limped out of the last edition in the group stage two years ago, follow Nigeria, Egypt, Ghana and Cameroon among heavyweight nations who have failed to win their opening game at the tournament.

Angola’s Black Antelopes will be pleased with the point, even if the result means they have now failed to win any of their last nine matches at the Cup of Nations, stretching back to 2012.

Djamel Belmadi’s Algeria have a point to prove after they took just one point and scored only one goal in a miserable defense of their title in 2022 in Cameroon.

They got off to a fine start at the Stade de la Paix, with Youcef Belaili providing a superb ball in behind the Angolan defense for Bounedjah to score with a lovely first-time finish with the outside of his right foot.

Prolific forward Bounedjah, who plays his club football in Qatar, thought he had made it 2-0 in the 25th minute when he produced a magnificent piece of skill to control a ball on his chest in the box and score with a thunderous overhead kick.

However, the celebrations were cut short by the offside flag, and the 32-year-old was denied one of the all-time great Cup of Nations goals.

An Algerian team featuring six starters who also lined up in the 2019 final victory over Senegal in Cairo, then saw Angola win a spot-kick in the 65th minute.

Nabil Bentaleb was penalized for bringing down Mabululu, and the Egypt-based striker stepped up to take the penalty, his effort hitting the underside of the bar before bouncing down well over the line.

With former Manchester City star Mahrez failing to have a major impact on the game, Angola held on through seven minutes of stoppage time to secure a draw.

Burkina Faso and Mauritania meet in the same group on Tuesday, also in Bouake.

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