JOHANNESBURG Dieumerci Mbokani scored twice as the Democratic Republic of Congo made an emphatic start to the group phase of Africa’s World Cup qualifiers with a 4-0 thumping of Libya while both the Ivory Coast and Senegal also emerged victorious on Saturday.
There were also potentially important away points collected by Morocco and South Africa on the opening weekend of games in the five groups, from which the winners go on to compete at the 2018 finals in Russia.
Striker Mbokani, recently signed by Hull City, netted after just six minutes to set the tone in Kinshasa with Jonathan Bolingi and Ndombe Mubele adding goals in a one-sided performance that could have ended with a even more convincing winning margin had the hosts taken all their chances.
Gervinho hammered home a left footed cracker for the Ivory Coast as they came from a goal down to beat Mali 3-1 in Bouake.
Sambou Yatabare scored to give Mali an 18th minute lead in the Group C clash but it lasted only eight minutes before Jonathan Kodjia equalised with an effort from outside the penalty area.
A horror own goal from Salif Coulibaly meant the African champions went 2-1 up just after the half hour mark before Gervinho’s superb finish gave the Ivorians a two-goal advantage at half-time. There were no more goals in the second half of an entertaining derby clash.
Morocco drew 0-0 away in Gabon in the other Group C clash. Lazio striker Balde Diao Keita struck in the first half and substitute Moussa Sow in the 80th minute as Senegal went top of Group D with an uninspiring 2-0 home win over the Cape Verde Islands in Dakar.
In the same group, Burkina Faso scrambled a stoppage time equaliser in a 1-1 draw with South Africa in Ouagadougou after squandering two penalties. South Africa goalkeeper Itumeleng Khune saved the first from Jonathan Pitroipa in the 10th minute and watched as the second from Alain Traore, three minutes from time, was blasted way over the top.
South Africa had taken an 80th minute lead through midfielder Dean Furman and will be kicking themselves they let a potential away victory slip away right near the end with some poor defending.
Four more qualifiers will be played on Sunday including a first group game for heavyweights Algeria, Cameroon, Egypt and Nigeria.
(Editing by Pritha Sarkar)