By Mark Gleeson
CAPE TOWN (Reuters) - Algeria lived up to their status as continental champions by beating Zimbabwe 3-1 on Thursday to keep up their 100 percent record in qualifying for the Africa Cup of Nations due to take place in 2022.
Ghana also reached the halfway stage of the preliminaries with three wins out of three to move closer to securing a berth in the finals.
Baghdad Bounedjah, Sofiane Feghouli and Riyad Mahrez were the scorers in Algiers as the 2019 champions overpowered their visitors, for whom Tino Kadewere pulled back a consolation goal.
Also in Group H, the 2012 champions Zambia picked up their first points of the campaign by edging Botswana 2-1 in Lusaka with Collins Sikombe tapping in at the back post for a 67th minute winner.
Captain Andre Ayew scored twice for Ghana as they beat Sudan 2-0 at Cape Coast to stay top in Group C. He rifled in a spectacular 19th minute free kick and thundered home a strike from just outside the box in the last nine minutes.
Ivory Coast pulled level with Madagascar in Group K as they beat the Indian Ocean islanders 2-1 at their new stadium on the outskirts of Abidjan. Veteran Gervinho, who made his national team debut 13 years ago, opened the scoring and debutant Sebastien Haller added a second before Paulin Voavy pulled one back for Madagascar.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was among the scorers as Gabon went top in Group D with a 2-1 home win over the Gambia.
Lassina Traore scored twice for Burkina Faso as they beat Malawi 3-1 in Ouagadougou and joined Uganda on seven points in Group B. Uganda defeated minnows South Sudan 1-0 with an 86th minute goal from Halid Lwaliwa.
Vincent Aboubakar scored the opening two goals for Cameroon as they easily dealt with Mozambique in a 4-1 victory in Group F in Douala.
The other goals came from Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa and Clinton Njie while Kamo-Kamo netted a consolation for the visitors.
Cameroon will host the next finals but are participating in Group F where the highest finisher, aside from the Indomitable Lions, also qualifies. Mozambique remain second after the Cape Verde Islands and Rwanda played out a goalless draw in Praia.
Congo moved into second place in Group I after goals in the last 13 minutes from Prince Ibarra and substitute Junior Makiesse that saw them eventually break down a stubborn Eswatini 2-0 in Brazzaville.
(Editing by xx)