Baku, May 8, AZERTAC
Two late goals helped Algeria edge fellow group B favourites Turkey 2-1 as the 2017 Islamic Solidarity Games football tournament got underway in Baku on Monday.
Onur Eris' first half strike put Turkey ahead, but it was Farid El Melali who saved the day for the north Africans with a goal worthy of Diego Maradona, dribbling past the Turkish defence before unleashing a well-placed shot with 13 minutes to go.
And it was the diminutive AC Paradou forward who was the hero of the day, earning a 94th minute penalty, which was converted by Ahmed Gagaa.
Eris took advantage of Algeria's first and only mistake at set pieces to put the young Turks ahead two minutes before the break.
In front of a Bayil Stadium clearly rooting for neighbouring Turkey, Algeria were the better side, but Turkey proved to be more efficient, until El Melali's appearance.
Without winger Raouf Benguit, retained on African Champions' League duty by USM Alger, the smaller North Africans played their usual fast-paced football but struggled for most of the game to get on top of a strong and organised Turkish side.
The Fennecs were unlucky not to find the back of the net when Tayeb Mezani ran clear of the Turkish back four only to see keeper Mehmet Zeki Celik parry his attempt with 22 minutes on the clock.
The Algerians could also have gone ahead with long range efforts from Youcef Douar, Abderrahim Merouan and Ahmed Gagaa.
With the pressure mounting in the final 30 minutes, the Red and Whites managed to keep their cool despite the pace and skills of the Algerian wingers.
Nedim Yigit's men could have added a second goal just after the hour mark, but captain Taylan Antalyali's free kick posed no problems for Chamseddine Rahmani.
Then it was the turn of El Melali, who came on early in the second half to replace Youcef Bechou, running past four or five Turks to imitate Maradona's "Goal of the Century" for Argentina against England and put Algeria back on level terms.
The Greens had a 87th-minute goal ruled out for a very close offside before tremendous back-to-back saves by keeper Rahmani.
Turkey take on Oman on Thursday before Algeria go head to head with Palestine looking to make it two wins in a row.
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