REPORT: Equatorial Guinea 1 Republic of Congo 1
Hosts Equatorial Guinea were denied victory in the opening group A game as Thievy Bifouma scored three minutes before full time to earn the Republic of Congo a share of the spoils.
In the 16th minute, Equatorial Guinea captain and talisman Emilio Nsue had deservedly put the Nzalang Nacional in front, after being sent clear on goal by Kike to send the home fans into wild rapture. But they would not celebrate after the final whistle having surrendered their slim advantage near the end of the encounter.
As early as the 3rd minute, the Equatoguineans showed a glimpse of what was to come as Iban Edu picked the pocket of a Congolese midfielder before charging to the byline to deliver a cross into the box to cause a scramble before the Congolese defence cleared their lines.
Congo had their first chance of the game midway into the half, from Francis N’ganga’s free kick which was poorly connected by right back Marvin Baudry, even with gaping net, after the Nzalang Nacional goalkeeper Felix Ovono stepped off his line. One minute later a nice interchange of passes between Thievy Bifouma and Cesaire Gandze sent the latter clear, but he only managed a tame shot, dealt decisively with by Ovono.
At the other end, just before the 40th minute, winger Edu rattled Christoffer Mafoumbi in goal for Congo with a long range effort, but the scoreline remained unchanged going into the half-time break.
During the second half there was a raft of substitutions as both coaches looked to turn the tide of the game in their favour.
Just like in the first 45 minutes, it was the hosts who got the first chance of the half, but Javier Balboa shot into the waiting arms of Mafoumbi.
But as the game wore on, Esteban Becker’s men began sitting deep allowing the Congolese space and time to build an attack.
In the 70th minute, Emilio Nsue thought he had scored his second of the night with a beautiful lob over Mafoumbi, but his effort was wrongly ruled out for offside, much to the dismay of their Argentinian coach.
Eight minutes from time, N’ganga came close to pulling Congo level but his curling effort from a set play could not beat the upright.
The Red Devils finally got their reward when Bifouma slotted the ball past Ovono with three minutes left to play.
Both teams are now tied on a point apiece going into their second group game.
by Ademola Adediji