Ex-Liverpool forward sold for £6.5m without making one outing helps ensure Mo Salah starts AFCON with defeat

Taiwo Awoniyi, who did not play once in a six-year spell at Liverpool, helped Nigeria beat Mo Salah’s Egypt 1-0 while Sadio Mane and Naby Keita got off to winning starts at the 2021 African Cup of Nations.

Mo Salah got off to a miserable start at the African Cup of Nations as Egypt were beaten 1-0 by Nigeria in their Group D opener.

All eyes were on the Liverpool forward as he bids to spearhead his country to a record eighth AFCON crown.

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Poor start for Salah

But The Pharaohs were well below their best and barely threatened Nigeria, having just five shots on goal - with two on target - throughout the game.

The clash was settled in the 30th minute through Leicester City striker Kelechi Iheanacho’s excellent half-volley.

Despite plundering 23 goals in 26 appearances for the Reds this season, Salah had little influence for Egypt across the 90 minutes and was constantly swarmed on by the opposition.

He did miss a a big chance in the second period, however, when he was left one-v-one with the Super Eagles goalkeeper - but his effort lacked purchase and was saved.

Nigeria were resolute throughout the encounter - and Salah’s former Liverpool team-mate Taiwo Awoniyi was part of the winning side.

Mo Salah, left, runs alongside Taiwo Awoniyi, centre, during Liverpool pre-season last summer. Picture: John Powell/Liverpool FC via Getty Images

Awoniyi spent six years at Anfield between 2015-2021.

However, he failed to make a single first-team appearance. Awoniyi had a total of seven loan spells before he was sold to Union Berlin last summer for £6.5 million.

The 24-year-old has been in rampant goalscoring form for the Bundesliga outfit this campaign, though, bagging 14 goals in 27 games.

Awoniyi featured for 72 minutes before being substituted for Umar Sadiq.

Mane and Keita start well

Sadio Mane in action for Senegal against Zimbabwe. Picture: PIUS UTOMI EKPEI/AFP via Getty Images

The fortunes of Sadio Mane and Naby Keita were different in their first games at the tournament.

Mane showed nerves of steel when Senegal were awarded a stoppage-time penalty in their Group B game against Zimbabwe on Monday.

The winger stepped up and netted in the 97th minute to deliver a 1-0 victory.

In the same group, Keita helped Guinea defeat Malawi by the same scoreline on Tuesday.

Mane and Keita will go head to head on Friday when their respective nations meet.