DR Congo, Zambia share spoils
Crystal Palace winger Yannick Bolasie equalised as Democratic Republic of Congo fought back to draw 1-1 with Zambia Sunday in the Africa Cup of Nations Group B opener.
Given Singuluma stunned the Leopards by giving the Zambian Chipolopolo (Copper Bullets) a second-minute lead in a match where the Congolese had a territorial edge.
Bolasie levelled midway through the second half in a game that featured two other English Premier League players — Southampton striker Emmanuel Mayuka and West Bromwich Albion midfielder Youssouf Mulumbu.
A near-capacity crowd in the 5,000-seat Estadio de Ebebiyin and a smooth pitch set the scene for a dramatic start to a mini-league that also includes Cape Verde and Tunisia.
Just 62 seconds had gone when Zambia had the ball in the net through striker Singuluma, who plays for leading DR Congo club Tout Puissant Mazembe.
A cross forced Congolese goalkeeper Robert Kidiaba into action, but his weak punched clearance reached only the edge of the penalty area.
One Zambian controlled the ball, allowing in-rushing Singuluma to unleash a low shot that found the corner of the net to the astonishment of the disorganised Congolese.
Zambia goalkeeper Kennedy Mweene, one of seven survivors from the 2012 Cup of Nations-winning team in the starting line-up, almost gifted DR Congo an equaliser on eight minutes.
The veteran spilled a seemingly harmless cross, but burly Ukraine-based Congolese striker Dieumerci Mbokani squandered a good chance by blazing over.
Two-time champions DR Congo had more possession and Bolasie, one of three English Premier League players on view, forced Mweene to block a low shot with an outstretched leg.
Mweene was busier than Kidiaba and did well to hold a looping header as Mbokani soared to nod a Joel Kimwaki free-kick goalwards.
Bolasie had the last chance of the opening half just before the break from a free-kick just outside the box.
His curling attempt came off the head of Zambian Nathan Sinkala and deflected narrowly wide of the far post with Mweene stranded.
Dusk set over the north-eastern town as the second half kicked off and the persistent pressure of the Congolese finally paid off on 66 minutes when Bolasie levelled.
A Zambian was dispossessed just outside his penalty area and a run and cut-back offered the France-born midfielder a chance to shoot wide of Mweene into the corner of the net.