Congo steal show at Cup of Nations with historic win
Congo Brazzaville celebrated a historic night at the Africa Cup of Nations on Wednesday.
Congo claimed their first win at the finals in more than four decades, beating Gabon 1-0 thanks to a Prince Oniangue goal to close in on qualification for the last eight from Group A.
Earlier, in the same group, hosts Equatorial Guinea held the Stallions of Burkina Faso to a 0-0 draw to leave both sides’ hopes in the balance.
It was a disappointing evening for Gabon, who knew that a win against Claude Le Roy’s Congo would take them through to the quarter-finals with a match to spare but who were left to rue profligate finishing.
Frederic Bulot came closest to giving the Panthers the lead from an early volley that was turned over the bar by Christoffer Mafoumbi in the Congo goal.
Congo managed to hold on until the interval and then got the breakthrough three minutes after the restart when Oniangue pounced to score after the Gabon defence failed to clear a corner.
And Gabon squandered a glorious chance to level the scores midway through the second half as Bulot, of English side Charlton Athletic, somehow sent the ball wide of the post with the goal gaping.
Congo held on for their first win at the Cup of Nations since their run to the semi-finals in Egypt in 1974, leaving their veteran French coach Le Roy to heap praise on his players.
“I have practically never had a team that works so well tactically, even if we are lacking in certain areas,” said Le Roy, who is appearing at his eighth Cup of Nations as a coach.
His side now need just a point against Burkina Faso in their last group game on Sunday to secure a place in the quarter-finals, but Le Roy insists they will go out to win.
“I was a striker and I am the worst coach in the world at playing for a draw. If we go out looking for a draw, I should be sacked right away.”
Meanwhile, a rueful Gabon coach Jorge Costa said: “We had chances in the first half but the luck we had against Burkina Faso we did not have today.”
In other news on Wednesday, Ivory Coast star Gervinho was handed a two-match ban following his red card in Tuesday’s 1-1 draw against Guinea in Malabo in Group D.
The Roma player was dismissed for hitting out at Naby Keita in the second half of the match and will now only feature again at the tournament if the Elephants reach the quarter-finals.
On Thursday the action moves to Group B, where Tunisia face Zambia and Cape Verde take on DR Congo in Ebebiyin.