JOHANNESBURG — 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 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 the previously unbeaten Senegalese ahead only for Yacine Bezzaz, Rafik Saifi and Antar Yahia to score 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 October 11 would seal first place. A blunder by defender Harrison Afful led to the 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 after quitting Fenerbahce, delivered a series of defence-splitting passes which were squandered by Junior Agogo and Sulley Muntari.
Malawi climbed above African champions Egypt on goal difference into second place on the standings in Group 12, one of the most hotly contested in Africa with Democratic Republic of Congo also strong challengers for top spot.
The 12 group winners and the best eight runners-up advance to the final qualifying phase where they will be split into five groups with the winners joining hosts South Africa at the first World Cup to be staged by Africa.