South Africa benefit from bizarre refereeing call

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South Africa got their 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifying campaign up and running with a controversial 2-1 win over Senegal in Polokwane, while Nigeria defeated Algeria 3-1.

The Group D match was heading towards a listless stalemate at half-time before referee Joseph Lamptey gave a penalty to the hosts for handball, even though replays showed the ball struck Napoli centre-back Kalidou Koulibaly on the thigh.

Thulani Hlatshwayo converted and a reeling Senegal were not allowed to recover as Thulani Serero added a second before the interval.

Substitute Cheikh N'Doye scrambled a goal back but South Africa move ahead of their Group B rivals on to four points from two matches, while Lamptey left the field with a substantial security presence.

Liverpool forward Sadio Mane flashed a header over from a ninth-minute free-kick but chances were largely hard to come by during the opening stages, with both teams pedestrian in their build-up.

Senegal goalkeeper Abdoulaye Diallo handled a sweetly-struck Keagan Dolly effort in assured fashion but he found himself facing a penalty after widespread confusion.

No South Africa players appealed when Koulibaly got in the way of Eleazar Rodgers's header and lengthy protests followed before Diallo got a touch to Hlatshwayo's spot-kick but could not keep it out of the bottom corner.

The complaints from the Senegal players were still going on after a wonderfully-worked South Africa second – Serero wrong-footing Diallo with a clever first-time finish into the bottom corner when Mpho Makola touched Dolly's low cross into his path.

Senegal should have reduced the deficit 11 minutes into the second half but Moussa Konate steered his header wide from eight yards, while Dolly shot wide at the other end.

Stoke City striker Mame Biram Diouf headed wastefully wide before fellow substitute N'Doye bundled in with 15 minutes remaining.

South Africa were indebted to a superb save from Itumeleng Khune as Mane looked to turn home but they held on to ease the pressure on coach Shakes Mashaba.

Chelsea duo Victor Moses and John Obi Mikel starred as Nigeria moved into full control of their qualifying group with a 3-1 home victory over Algeria in Uyo.

Moses and Mikel were on target in the first half, before Nabil Bentaleb's goal after the break gave Algeria hope of a comeback.

But Moses scored his second in the final moments as Gernot Rohr's side won their second straight game in the final stage of CAF qualification.

The win puts the Super Eagles four points clear of nearest challengers Cameroon in Group B, with Algeria and Zambia a further one behind. Only the pool winners will make it to Russia in 2018.

Moses had already created the best early chance in the first meeting between the two sides since the 2010 Africa Cup of Nations when he cut inside and fired wide, but the Chelsea winger made no mistake after 25 minutes.

After collecting a pass from Mikel, Moses took advantage of poor defending from Hicham Belkaroui to fire into the bottom corner, before being booked for removing his shirt in celebration.

Bentaleb squandered a wonderful chance to equalise for Algeria, firing over from eight yards after controlling from Yacine Brahimi's excellent run and cross down the left - and that miss cost the visitors when Nigeria doubled their lead three minutes before the break. 

Etebo Oghenekaro's pass found a shocked Mikel completely unmarked in the middle of Algeria's box after he had been played onside by fullback Aissa Mandi and the captain finished with ease for his first international goal in over three years.

Algeria pressed in a bid to get back into the game and Bentaleb scored a stunning goal with 23 minutes remaining, rifling into the top corner from 30 yards after being found by Riyad Mahrez.

Brahimi then came close with two late efforts, but Moses grabbed his second in stoppage-time, finishing coolly from substitute Ahmed Musa's cross as Nigeria secured a win that puts them in a strong position with four games to play.

Source Omnisport