Algeria, Libya and Malawi triumphed this weekend to keep alive hopes of qualifying for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.
A three-goal second half burst helped the Desert Foxes of Algeria edge the Teranga Lions of Senegal 3-2 in Blida and take a one-point advantage in Group 6 with one round to play. Long serving Ahmed Saad was the hero of Libya as his goal six minutes from full-time earned a 1-0 win over Ghana in a top-of-the-table Group 5 Tripoli clash marred by an injury to Chelsea midfielder Michael Essien. Malawi were the latest team to inflict misery on Group 12 whipping boys Djibouti, winning 3-0 in the tiny Horn of Africa state via goals from Chiukepo Msowoya, Moses Chavula and Atosaye Nyondo.
After a goalless first half in Blida, Issiar Dia put previously unbeaten Senegal ahead only for Yacine Bezzaz, Rafik Saifi and Antar Yahia to score for Algeria within 14 minutes.
Mamadou Sougou grabbed a stoppage-time consolation goal for Senegal, who host Gambia in their final match next month, while Algeria travel to group strugglers Liberia.
Libya won their fourth consecutive match without conceding a goal after suffering a hiding in Ghana last June, and a point from their away fixture against Gabon on Oct. 11 would seal first place. A blunder by defender Harrison Afful led to Libya’s winner as he failed to clear a through ball, allowing Saad to beat goalkeeper Richard Kingson from an acute angle.
Essien, who had been a doubtful starter, was the victim of a cynical foul midway through the opening half and Stephen Appiah came on to end a nine-month injury induced absence from the Black Stars. Appiah, who has been linked with West Ham United after quitting Fenerbahce, delivered a series of defense-splitting passes which were squandered by Junior Agogo and Sulley Muntari.
Malawi climbed above African champions Egypt on goal difference after their win over Djibouti. They are in second place in the standings in Group 12, one of the most hotly contested in Africa, with the Democratic Republic of Congo also strong challengers for top spot.
Yesterday, Mauritius were defeated 1-4 in Curepipe by Tanzania.
The 12 group winners and the best eight runners-up advance to the final qualifying phase.
AFP, NOUMEA AND BA, FIJI
A second-half double by Shane Smeltz lifted New Zealand to a 3-1 victory over New Caledonia yesterday to put them on the verge of qualifying for the 2010 World Cup.
New Zealand must now play the fifth-ranked Asian nation in a home-and-away series, with the winner going through to the World Cup finals in South Africa.
Smeltz’s two-goal burst sealed the match for New Zealand after they appeared to lose their way early in the second half.
Ben Sigmund put New Zealand ahead in the 15th minute when he fired in from close range following a corner.
The All Whites looked to have control of the match against a struggling New Caledonia side and only excellent work by goalkeeper Jean Marc Ounemoa kept the score at 1-0.
But shortly after halftime, Michel Hmae equalized for New Caledonia as New Zealand began to struggle in the tropical heat.
However, they hit back in the 65th minute when Jarrod Smith and Jeremy Brockie combined to set up Smeltz for his first goal, firing home from close range.
Eleven minutes later, Smeltz put New Zealand 3-1 up when he received the ball on the edge of the box, turned his marker and hammered a powerful shot into the top corner.