World Cup 2018: Ivory Coast, DR Congo and Senegal win group games
Ivory Coast, DR Congo and Senegal recorded opening group wins in 2018 World Cup qualifiers across Africa on Saturday, while South Africa conceded a late equaliser in Burkina Faso.
Ivory Coast beat Mali 3-1 to go top of Group C after Gabon and Morocco had earlier drawn 0-0.
DR Congo thrashed Libya in Group A, winning 4-0 in Kinshasa.
In Group D, Senegal beat Cape Verde 2-0 after Burkina Faso and South Africa had drawn 1-1.
The reigning African champions, Ivory Coast, took on Mali in Group C in Bouake with a largely new generation of players in the post Toure-brothers era.
The hosts were put under pressure after just 18 minutes when Sambou Yatabare scored to give Mali a 1-0 lead.
It took eight minutes for Ivory Coast to level the match, with Aston Villa forward Jonathan Kodjia scoring an equaliser.
Five minutes later, the Ivorians went 2-1 up after Mali's Salif Coulibaly directed the ball into his own net.
Ivory Coast took a commanding 3-1 lead in the 34th minute when Gervinho (pictured), one of the few existing members of Ivory Coast's so-called "golden generation", volleyed in to put his side top of Group C, above Gabon and Morocco who drew 0-0 in Franceville earlier.
Gabon, hosts of the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations, were left frustrated by Morocco at home.
They looked to their Borussia Dortmund talisman, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, to conjure up a winner and he came closest to scoring in the 68th minute, only to see his header cleared off the line by Moroccan goalkeeper Munir.
In Group A, the Democratic Republic of Congo looked in firm control as they convincingly beat Libya 4-0.
Dieumerci Mbokani scored twice, getting the first of his two goals in the sixth minute with Jonathan Bolingi adding a second on the stroke of half-time.
Mbokani grabbed his second after 56 minutes to make it 3-0 to DR Congo, with substitute Ndombe Mubele adding a fourth late on for the hosts.
Elsewhere, Senegal beat Cape Verde 2-0 late on Saturday in Dakar to go top of Group D.
Lazio striker Balde Diao Keita struck in the first half and substitute Moussa Sow in the 80th minute to give Senegal an opening win.
Earlier, Burkina Faso squandered two penalties but did manage to grab a dramatic injury-time equaliser as they drew 1-1 with South Africa in their Group D match in Ouagadougou.
Jonathan Pitroipa had the chance to put Burkina Faso 1-0 up in the 10th minute from the penalty spot, but South African goal-keeper Itumeleng Khune saved the spot-kick to keep his team in the match.
It remained 0-0 until the 80th minute when South Africa took the lead through Dean Furman against the run of play.
Burkina Faso won their second penalty of the game with Alain Traore stepping up to take it, but he missed from the spot.
South Africa and their coach Shakes Mashaba were denied a victory when Banou Diawara scored in the 91st minute for Burkina Faso to make it 1-1.
On Friday, the group phase of African World Cup qualifiers kicked off with Uganda holding Ghana to a 0-0 draw in Tamale in the opening game of Group E.
Only the five group winners will qualify for Russia 2018.