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Mounié rises highest to give Benin crucial road victory over Madagascar in front of hostile crowd

Madagascar continued their recent struggles in competitive football on Thursday with a poor start in the second round of FIFA World Cup qualifying, losing 0-1 to a composed Benin side in Antananarivo. Stade Brest forward Steve Mounié rose high to nod in a first half corner kick that ended up making the difference as the hosts struggled to consistently generate opportunities against a resilient Beninese defense. Benin unexpectedly top Group J after the opening day of fixtures with Madagascar, DR Congo and Tanzania trailing behind.

The signs were there throughout the match that the home crowd might leave disappointed despite the Malagasy supporters maintaining an excellent atmosphere. Benin tends to play defensive under manager Michel Dussuyer and the Squirrels did excellently to limit opportunities for the Barea while leaning on star striker Mounié to make the difference when it mattered most. The visitors had the first chance in the 10th minute when Matteo Ahlinvi unleashed a fierce and curling strike towards the Malagasy goal that went just wide.

Ahlinvi’s shot was a warning to Madagascar, but Mounié provided the moment just over ten minutes later that had the alarm bells ringing and the Malagasy crowd silenced. A corner kick from the right flank saw the French based forward launch himself high into the air and above Malagasy defenders Romain Metanire and Thomas Fontaine to place a brilliant header past keeper Melvin Adrien. It was Mounié’s 8th international goal coming at a crucial moment, and Benin held on to the 1-0 score until halftime.

Even after the break, it took too long for Madagascar to find their footing and start creating opportunities. The Barea’s best chances came in the final 15 minutes of the match but the final touch was lacking. In the 79th minute, Loic Lapoussin combined well with Alexandre Ramalingom to find space on the left flank, but Lapoussin’s hard driven cross could not find striker Hakim Abdallah for the finish. Veteran striker Carolus Andriamatsinoro provided excellent service from an 81st minute free kick, but defender Pascal Razakanantenaina launched himself at the ball and just missed with Abdallah just out of reach at the far post.

Three points on the road for Benin is a dream start for Les Écureuils and a disappointing start for Madagascar. Video of Mounié’s winning goal is below.

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