Algeria and Zimbabwe kicked off their 2017 Africa Cup of Nations campaign with an entertaining 2-2 draw at Stade de Franceville on Sunday.
Riyad Mahrez broke the deadlock with a fine finish on 13 minutes, but the Warriors hit back swiftly to equalise through Kuda Mahachi before Nyasha Mushekwi fired them in front from the penalty spot in the 29th minute.
The Desert Foxes piled on the pressure in the second half as they searched for an equaliser and their endeavours were rewarded eight minutes from time when Mahrez struck again to earn his team a share of the spoils.
Zimbabwe seemed happy to sit back and hit Algeria on the counter, and the tactic almost paid off early on when the ball came out to Khama Billiat, who beat his marker before getting off a low shot that was saved by Tatenda Mkuruva in the ninth minute.
Billiat went close again from the resulting corner which was cleared into his path, and the Mamelodi Sundowns star hit a rasping half-volley that cannoned off the post.
But the Desert Foxes took the lead with their attack on 13 minutes as Mahrez received the ball inside the area and despite the narrow angle, the Leicester winger picked out the far corner of the net with a curling effort.
Their lead lasted just four minutes, however, when Mahachi fired a low shot past Rais M’Bolhi from just inside the area after beating the defender with pace to create the chance.
Billiat threatened again for Zim midway through the first half after being teed up by Mushekwi, but his low strike was expertly kept out by M’Bolhi.
The Warriors were presented with a golden opportunity to go in front for the first time on 28 minutes when Hardlife Zvirekwi was brought down by Mokhtar Belkhiter inside the box for a penalty, and Mushekwi made no mistake from 12 yards.
Yacine Brahimi looked for the spectacular on 35 minutes as he tried his luck from 35 yards out, but his attempt kissed the roof of the net, which turned out to be the final chance of the first half.
The North Africans nearly found a way back into the contest three minutes into the second half when Brahimi fizzed a shot over the crossbar after Katsande had taken the ball away from the advancing keeper from Mahrez’s cross.
But M’Bolhi was soon called into action at the other end as he turned Billiat’s effort around the post after the winger skipped his way past the defence on 53 minutes, while two minutes later Nabil Bentaleb was a whisker away from restoring parity with a volley that flashed past the post.
Algeria were creating most of the chances after the break and Brahimi tested Mkuruva with a low strike from distance in the 64th minute, before Mahrez did well to create space for a shot that lacked any power to beat the keeper three minutes later.
The woodwork then came to the Southern Africans’ rescue in the 73rd minute when Elisha Muroiwa looked to cut out a cross that struck his knee and came back off the crossbar.
Islam Slimani failed to hit the target on 79 minutes from an acute angle after being played in by Brahimi, and Zimbabwe almost made the game safe soon afterwards as Cuthbert Malajila broke through on goal after cutting out a clearance, but his shot was blocked before Katsande blazed over on the rebound.
They were made to pay for that missed opportunity moments later when Mahrez had a pop from distance and he was fortunate to see the ball squirm through the gloves of Mkuruva and into the back of the net.
Slimani capped off a poor night when he steered a header over from just eight yards out in an unmarked position and Brahimi was unable to beat Mkuruva in stoppage time after the keeper initially fumbled the ball from a cross but recovered to deny the Algerian on the edge of his area.