Manchester City star Riyad Mahrez scored the goal that wrapped up a 3-1 victory for Algeria over Zimbabwe Thursday and stretched an unbeaten run by the African champions to 21 matches.
He pounced on a weak clearance and surged forward before slamming the ball across goalkeeper Elvis Chipezeze into the far corner for a three-goal lead in a 2021 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier.
Second-place Zimbabwe managed a late consolation goal from Tino Kadewere as they surrendered an unbeaten record in Group H and fell five points behind Algeria after three rounds.
Algeria have won 16 matches and drawn five since losing to Benin in October 2018 and Mahrez has hailed coach Djamel Belmadi as “a magician who has breathed a soul into our national team”.
Baghdad Bounedjah, whose early goal earned Algeria victory over Senegal in the 2019 Cup of Nations final, and Sofiane Feghouli gave the Desert Foxes a two-goal half-time advantage in Algiers.
The match was staged behind closed doors in the 80,000-seat national stadium because of the coronavirus pandemic, which has severely disrupted the African international schedule this year.
Matchday 3 in the contest to fill 23 places for the finals in Cameroon, which began Wednesday, was originally planned for last March.
Zambia, who made a disastrous start to Group H with a heavy loss in Algeria and a shock home defeat by Zimbabwe, edged Botswana 2-1 in Lusaka to close within one point of Zimbabwe.