D-Day for Group A, with no-one yet eliminated from the competition and everything to play for, an exciting evening awaits across the two venues for the games, the Estadio de Bata and Nuevo Estadio de Ebebiyin. Equatorial Guinea faced Gabon as always for this games in this competition, in Bata, an expectant home crowd hopeful of seeing their idols make it through to the knockout stages.
Understandably, things got off to a very cautious start, even with Equatorial Guinea needing the three points to progress, the emphasis for both teams in the first half seemed to be not to concede. Frederic Bulot was at the helm of most of the first half chances for Gabon, skilful, quick and with an eye for goal the Standard Liege man has been impressive in an underperforming Gabonese team in this competition. It was his cross to the head of Aubeyamang, saved by Ovoni in the Equatorial Guinea goal, that proved to be the best chance of the first 45. It seemed to sum up Aubeyamang’s tournament so far, for large periods he has seemed almost uninterested, perhaps lacking the quality in support he is used to n the German Bundesliga for Borussia Dortmund. Earlier in the week he stated his ambition to be one of Africa’s all time greats, which he certainly has the potential and ability to become but the African Cup of Nations 2015 will not be one for him to remember too fondly, his goal against Burkina Faso aside.
Chances continued for the Gabon Panthers in the second half, two free-kicks saved magnificently by Ovoni again, from Aubeyamang and Frederic Bulot respectively. As the crowd started to become relestless, in the knowledge that a draw would see their team knocked out of the competition, Equatorial Guinea started to take a foothold in the match. Viera Elong and and Kika, in particular dragging their tem into the game through some great midfield play, creating space for Raul Fabiani and Emilio Nsue, chosen to lead the line for National Thunder today. 55 minutes in and the crowd was on it’s feet, penalty given to the hosts when Javier Balboa went down, under what seemed to be minimal contact from Lloyd Palun in the Gabon box. No matter, Noumandiez Doue, the referee from Cote d’Ivoire pointed to the spot and Balboa himself slotted home confidently. One nil up and as things stood the hosts, disqualified from the competition until stepping in to host merely weeks ago, were on their way to the Quarter-Finals. G
Gabon now needed a goal, a draw would see them through and they should have been on level terms when Bulot shot over the bar with the goal at his mercy, a very bad miss as the cross to him had evaded the goal-keeper leaving Bulot with just a defender on the line to beat. But Equatorial Guinea weathered everything Gabon had to throw at them, also creating chances of their own and with five minutes left to play sealed the deal, Iban prodding home after Ovono had saved from Emilio Nsue. Two-nil and the home crowd had plenty to celebrate, a well earned Quarter-Finals berth secured with a convincing display, beating a Gabon side who have disappointed here, looking bereft of ideas in their two defeats. We will surely see Aubeyamang on this stage again with another chance to shine but for now the National Thunder make their way to the last eight with the hopes and dreams of a nation behind them.