In what will count as ‘a win’ for Sierra Leone, Holders Algeria were held to a surprise goalless draw by the Leone Stars as they made an uninspiring start to the defence of their Africa Cup of Nations title in Douala on Tuesday.

Striker Islam Slimani and Ryad Mahrez had a couple of chances to put Les Fennecs in the lead but made a mess of the opportunities.

From the word go, it was clear Sierra Leone, fully aware of the dangers posed by the Algerians, were happy to stay back and absorb the pressure and hopefully get a point against the defending champions. And the duly celebrated when the referee blew the whistle to end the match after the hard fought 90 minutes.

Algeria were expected to get their Group E campaign at the tournament in Cameroon off to an easy start against minnows Sierra Leone, who were returning to the tournament for the first time since 1996.

But it proved a brave showing by the West Africans as they clung on for a point in sweltering heat in the port city.

The second Group E game is being played on Wednesday in Douala when Equatorial Guinea meet the Ivory Coast.

The 2021 Africa Cup of Nations is most likely the last tournament Slimani will take part in. But, surely for the 33-year-old, nothing would be better to cap a scintillating international career than helping your country defend the title.

Quick on the ball, and blessed with the wit to place himself in very good positions in front of goals, the well-travelled goal poacher who currently plays for Olympique Lyon in France, enjoyed good form with Les Fennecs going into this tournament. He scored four goals in the 8-0 annihilation of Djibouti and a brace against Niger in the 2022 FIFA World Cup – a form Algeria’s all-time top goalscorer will be hoping to recapture in the last two group matches as they aim to defend their championship. – additional reporting by Reuters