Naby Deco Keita of Guinea during the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations match between Nigeria and Guinea at the Alexandria Stadium, Alexandria on the 26 June 2019 ©Muzi Ntombela/BackpagePix

Naby Keita shines as Man of the Match in AFCON kickoff

Naby Keita was named Man of the Match as he captained Guinea to a winning start to the Africa Cup of Nations, making it two from two for Liverpool’s internationals.

Day two of the AFCON saw the Reds’ first representatives in action, with Senegal taking on Zimbabwe before Guinea faced Malawi in Group B.

Senegal left it to the final kick of the game to seal their 1-0 victory, with Sadio Mane stepping up to convert a 96th-minute penalty to take the three points.

Mane was given the Man of the Match award for his performance, which saw him as the spearhead of Senegal’s attack and often their main creator, and three hours later, Keita was posing with his own prize.

The 26-year-old wore the captain’s armband as Guinea met Malawi in Bafoussam, taking his place in a three-man midfield alongside Roma’s Amadou Diawara and the Liverpool-linked Olympiakos player Aguibou Camara.

Though Guinea dominated possession, it was a fairly even game in terms of chances, with Malawi gifted two clear opportunities through errors from Keita’s defence.

But it was Liverpool’s No. 8 who helped craft the winner, with a brilliant lofted pass into the box for Jose Kante, whose pullback was touched in by the underlapping Issiaga Sylla.

Guinea goalkeeper Aly Keita had to make some fine saves as Malawi attempted spectacular effort after spectacular effort, while at the other end Ernest Kakhobwe made an impressive double stop to keep out Camara.

Ultimately, Keita’s side were able to hold on for victory, and after a decent midfield display, he was handed the Man of the Match award.

Next up in the AFCON is Egypt’s clash with Nigeria at 4pm on Tuesday, which pits Mohamed Salah against a former Reds team-mate in Taiwo Awoniyi.