Algeria sweep aside Armenia in festive atmosphere
Bathed in evening sunshine and surrounded by snow-capped peaks, the Tourbillon provided a stunning setting
Algeria belied their status as World Cup outsiders blasting three first-half goals on their way to a comprehensive 3-1 win over Armenia in a festive atmosphere in Sion on Saturday.
Around 12,000 drum-banging, chanting Algerian fans turned the tiny Tourbillon in the usually sleepy Swiss Alpine town into a cauldron, appearing to unnerve their opponents in the first half.
Essaid Belkalem, Nabil Ghilas and Islam Slimani scored before halftime as Algeria gave a performance which suggested they could more than hold their own against Belgium, Russia and South Korea in Group H at the Brazil finals.
Bathed in evening sunshine and surrounded by snow-capped peaks, the Tourbillon provided a stunning setting for a match which saw Leicester City midfielder Riyad Mahrez make an impressive debut for Algeria.
Last minute lead
Defender Belkalem, who struggled to get playing time at Watford last season, put Algeria ahead in the 13th minute, turning the ball in from close range following a corner as Rafik Halliche's run distracted the defence.
The Fennec Foxes increased their lead nine minutes later when Mahrez slipped the ball to Ghilas on his right and the Porto player rifled an emphatic finish into the roof of the net.
Algeria continued to pull the Armenians apart with lots of neat moves from the midfield trio of Mehdi Lacen, Yacine Brahimi and Adlene Guedioura.
French-raised Brahimi, in particular, brought the crowd to their feet with his cheeky skills.
Slimani missed two chances to put Algeria ahead but the Sporting forward finally converted three minutes before halftime, heading in the rebound after Ghilas's header had struck the bar.
Armenia, 33rd in the FIFA rankings compared to Algeria's 25, pulled one back within a minute of the re-start when halftime substitute Artur Sarkisov burst clear and beat Mohamed Lamine Zemmamouche with a low shot.
The game went off the boil in the second half although substitute al-Arabi Soudani brought the crowd to their feet with a weaving run but was denied by Roman Berezovski's save.