So finally it’s here, the big kick-off Africa Cup of Nations 2015, after all the turmoil of the past few months, the controversies, epidemics, suspensions and hotel rooms, it’s time for the actual football. So at 4pm 17/01/2015 the competition kicked off with the first game from Group A, the hosts Equatorial Guinea v Congo. And what a way to start the tournament, a thrilling draw was played out in front of a capacity Estadio De Bata. In the end Congo will be the more disappointed having had the most chances and an opportunity late on for substitute Dominique Malonga should have been the winner had the Hibs striker not fluffed his lines.
The game had started at break-neck speed, both teams creating chances in an open beginning, attacking play the order of the day. Congolese captain Prince Oniangue nearly opened the scoring with a stunning 30 yard shot dipping just over the bar with goal-keeper Felipe Ovono well beaten. The chances continued for Congo minutes later when Cesaire Gandze brilliantly split the Equatoguinean defence with a neat through ball to Thievy Bifouma who shot wide when perhaps a square ball across the box to an unmarked Ferebore Dore was the better option. But it was Equatorial Guinea who would take the lead, a neat finish from Emilio Nsue after some great skill and pace from Kike. replays show Nsue was off-side when put through to neatly finish past the Congolese ‘keeper Mafoumbi but the goal was to stand, 1-0 with 16 minutes on the clock.
Congo would continue to dominate the game, Marvin Baudry coming close with a headed effort, wide of the goal with ‘keeper Ovono stranded, from a free-kick floated into the box. After the half-time break Equatorial Guinea were to come back into the game, controlling possession for periods of the game, buoyed by the fanatical home support but Ovono was still the most worked of the goalkeepers, one save in particular from a curling effort from Douniama was truly world class. As Congo pushed on for the equaliser there was always the threat of a breakaway goal, the closest of which came with twenty minutes to play when Javier Balboa’s sublime chipped pass to Nsue resulted in a neat save from Mafoumbi, the Congolese ‘keeper, using his legs to parry for a corner.
And so it continued, more changes for Congo but no goals, until finally the Equatoguinean goal was breached on 87 minutes. Substitute Malonga broke on the right wing and placed an inch-perfect ball for Bifouma to stroke past the oncoming Ovono, first time, for what will surely be contender for goal of the tournament. There was still time for Malonga to miss the chance in front of goal which would have truly made him the hero of the day and he will not enjoy watching his spurned chance again. Congo now prepare to face Gabon, also looking good whilst the hosts will fight it out with Burkina Faso on the 21st of January in search of their first win.