Chan: Underdogs Gabon win the day

2014-01-18 19:54

Gabon have thrown the African Nations Championship (Chan) Group D wide open with a shock 1-0 victory over the pretournament favourites, the Democratic Republic of Congo, at the Peter Mokaba Stadium in Polokwane.

Had they not wasted numerous chances today, the winning margin could have been bigger for the Black Panthers.

But Erwin Blynn Nguema’s second-minute header turned out to be the match winner.

Gabon are on top with four points, one ahead of the Leopards going into the group’s last matches on Wednesday.

They face Mauritania at the Free State Stadium in Bloemfontein, while the Leopards face minnows Burundi here in Polokwane.

Any team can still book their place in the quarterfinal on the last day.

Stephane Bitseki, Gabon goalkeeper, produced a match-winning save to deny Lema Mabidi an equaliser in the dying moments of the game as the Leopards made a late surge in an attempt to rescue a point.

Going into the game as underdogs, the Black Panthers got off to a dream start, stunning the pretournament favourites with an early goal.

Nguema headed home the opening goal from a corner in the second minute. Gabon couldn’t have asked for a better start as they unsettled their fancied opponents.

The Leopards were caught off guard by the Gabonese side full of energy and hungry for more.

The inaugural winners of 2009 had to come out and up their game in search of an equaliser.

Firmin Mubele and Patrick Ilongo combined to set up Heritier Luvumbu to tap in the equaliser, but the striker failed to connect with the ball in a move that only needed a touch in the 11th minute.

Two minutes later, Eric Nkulukuta’s powerfully struck free kick was tipped away for a corner by Black Panthers goalkeeper Bitseki.

That was the closest the Leopards came to finding a goal.

The Black Panthers were dangerous on the counterattack as the Leopards pushed forward in search of a goal that would level matters.

Robert Kidiaba, the Leopards goalkeeper, was left exposed at the back as his side failed to defend set pieces.

Gabon were threatening on the breakaway and set pieces, and this caused their opponents all sorts of problems at the back.

The Black Panthers were also rock solid at the back and they came up with a strategy to contain and frustrate the Leopards.

Samson Mbingui could have doubled the lead, but fired his shot just wide in added time.

The first half belonged to the Black Panthers and the Leopards were left with a huge task of rescuing the game.

Gabon should have ended the game as a contest, but Mbingui missed a one-on-one opportunity with only Kidiaba to beat.

But Leopards goalkeeper somehow pushed his effort for a corner five minutes after the restart.

It could have been game set and match, but experience let the Black Panthers down.

Gabon held out for a win.

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