Rep. of Congo leaps to top of Group A with surprise win
BATA, Equatorial Guinea (AP) — Unfancied Republic of Congo went top of Group A at the African Cup of Nations with a surprise 1-0 win over Gabon on Wednesday after host Equatorial Guinea and Burkina Faso played out a 0-0 draw.
The Congolese ground out a victory — their first at the tournament in over 20 years — that will re-energize their campaign, with Prince Oniangue poking in from close range early in the second half and against the run of play.
The result was unfair, Gabon coach Jorge Costa said, as the Gabonese did most of the attacking and couldn’t find a finishing touch to follow up their impressive win over Burkina Faso in the first round of games.
“Football is like this ... When you make mistakes, you lose games,” Costa said.
The loss dropped Gabon to second in the group, with Equatorial Guinea third and Burkina Faso, the 2013 finalist, last. But just three points separate the top team from the bottom team ahead of the final round of games.
Still, Republic of Congo is in a good position to make the quarterfinals after qualifying for the African Cup for the first time in 15 years. Its last appearance in the quarters was in 1992. It won the title in 1972.
Having missed out on seven successive African Cups before this year, Republic of Congo only needs a draw against Burkina Faso in their last group game to make the last eight.
Goalscorers had problems in the day’s first match at Bata Stadium, too, as Equatorial Guinea and Burkina Faso wasted chance after chance in their stalemate.
That left the home fans frustrated after Equatorial Guinea survived waves of pressure from the Burkinabes in the first half — when Alain Traore hit the post twice — and emerged the better team in the second.
Javier Balboa set up two clear chances for his teammates, but both were wasted. Equatorial Guinea now has a tough assignment against Gabon in the last round of matches to try and claim a place in the quarters at its tournament.
It was a bad day all round for the local fans, with some of them clashing with riot police outside the stadium around the time Equatorial Guinea’s game was kicking off.
Equatorial Guinea’s preparations for the African Cup have come under scrutiny after it had just two months to organize the tournament following Morocco’s late withdrawal as host. The tournament had been going OK, but some fans tried to force their way into Wednesday’s game, according to witnesses, when they clashed with police near a gate at the outer perimeter of the stadium complex.
Ticket control at the main Bata Stadium — where the final will be held on Feb. 8 — appeared to be slack, with ticket machines closer to the stadium not functioning and fans able to wander in and out of them without tickets being checked.
Gerald Imray is on Twitter at www.twitter.com/GeraldImrayAP