Lamine Camara scored a stunning brace as Senegal began their defence of the Africa Cup of Nations title with a 3-0 win over Gambia on Monday, but fellow heavyweights Algeria and Cameroon were both held in their opening matches.
Sadio Mane’s Senegal are hoping to retain the trophy they won in Cameroon two years ago and were too strong for their Gambian neighbors, who played the whole second half with 10 men.
Marseille midfielder Pape Gueye swept home an assist by Mane to give the Lions of Teranga the lead inside four minutes in Ivorian capital Yamoussoukro.
Gambia endured a troubled build-up to the tournament, boycotting a training session over an unpaid qualification bonus before their flight to Ivory Coast was forced to turn around just nine minutes after take-off due to technical problems.
Cameroon, with Manchester United goalkeeper Andre Onana not in the team having not arrived in Ivory Coast until just before the match, were given a boost as Guinea’s Francois Kamano was sent off with half-time approaching.
Quarter-finalists in 2022, they had Cardiff midfielder Ebou Adams sent off for a studs-up challenge just before the break.
Senegal effectively killed off the game early in the second half when 20-year-old Camara, the African young player of the year, drilled a low shot into the far corner.
He then completed the victory with an early contender for goal of the tournament in the 86th minute, expertly bending a shot into the top corner from just outside the box.
Aliou Cisse’s Senegal will likely face a tougher assignment in their next Group C match when they face five-time winners Cameroon.
The Indomitable Lions, champions in 2017, had to come from behind to draw 1-1 with 10-man Guinea in the second game of the day in Yamoussoukro, with Frank Magri equalising for Cameroon early in the second half.
Guinea had taken an early lead through Mohamed Bayo, who was leading their attack in the absence of the injured Serhou Guirassy, the striker enjoying a fine season in Germany with Stuttgart.