Karim Matmour and Momo Sissoko fight for the ball as Algeria pick up a vital three points [AFP]

Algeria reasserted themselves on African football with a 1-0 win over Mali that put them back in contention in Group A.

The Desert Foxes had lost pride and points when they went down 3-0 to Malawi in their opening Africa Cup of Nations fixture less than two months after qualifying for the World Cup.

But Rafik Halliche headed them in front just before half time on Thursday to put them second in the group ahead of the match between Angola and Malawi on the same pitch.

The North Africans had complained about the heat in their defeat to the world's 99th ranked team on Monday but the shadow cast by the November 11 stadium's stands had retreated to the far touchline as this match kicked off in the relative cool of the early evening.

And Algeria instantly looked a hotter prospect as they harried the Malians, who came into the game on a high having scored four goals in the last 15 minutes to draw 4-4 with Angola.

"I don't want to talk about the result but what I can say is that the answer my team gave today has shut the mouths of all those who criticised us," said Algeria coach Rabah Saadane afterwards.

Mali lined up without star striker Frederic Kanoute but had double goal hero Seydou Keita in the side as they looked to build on their opening result.

Algeria made two changes, bringing in Yassine Bezzaz and Abdelkader Laifaoui for Rafik Saifi and Samir Zaoui in a match that would see them exit the tournament if they lost.

Vicious

And it was Bezzaz who was the catalyst for their goal as he was taken out in a vicious collision with right back Bakary Soumare with two minutes of a scrappy first half remaining.

The Mali defender appeared to leave a knee high when he checked the Algerian's sprint towards the box, earning himself one of the five bookings dished out by Ugandan referee Ssegonga Muhmed.

Worse news was to follow as Yanis Ziani curled the free kick to the edge of the six yard box for Halliche to rise higher than the much taller defenders and head past the stranded Soumaila Diakite in the Mali goal.

Angola arrived at half time in the middle of a hand-linked security cordon, appearing to be cheered and whistled in equal measure, with some Malians and Malawians in the crowd seeming to take issue with the hosts.

Algeria's Nadir Belhadj, left, goes in for a high tackle on Mamadou Diallo [AFP]
But the catcalls were drowned out as the stadium announcer shouted "Forca Angola" at ear-drum puncturing volume.

Only a handful of fans had turned up for Algeria's defeat to Malawi, but there were a thousand or so more bodies at the start of this fixture and more arrived to top up the stands in anticipation of the Angola match later on.

Long before the 50,000 seats were filled, a cluster of a few hundred Mali fans were creating a big-match atmosphere with an incessant drum beat in the corner of the ground.

But they had little to cheer in a second half that saw Algeria comfortably fend off a series of half chances until a dangerous cross from substitute Kanoute gave them a scare at the end of 90 minutes, with Saifi heading safely behind after coming off the bench.

Source: Al Jazeera