Knockout football is here, the business end of the competition started with an African derby, adding spice to am already huge match. Neighbouring Congo and DR Congo faced off in the Estadio de Bata for a place in the semi-finals. With both teams undefeated in the group stages, it promised to be a tense affair in front of another capacity crowd in Bata.
Tense would be one word to describe the opening half but other words would be far more negative as the crowd were treated to a low quality first forty five minutes. Both sides were more than happy to keep possession in their own halves, opposition offering little in the way of pressure it seemed both sides were happy for the game to go to a penalty shoot-out. But how wrong that assumption proved to be, with a polar opposite second half of play. Two completely different sides emerged for the second half it seemed as attacking play was now the order of the day and there would not be long to wait for the opening goal. On 54 minutes, Ferebory Dore ghosted in at the back post unmarked, meeting Delvin N’Dinga’s lofted free-kick, with a neat volley into the roof of the net from six-yards. Worse was to come for DR Congo five minutes later with further indecisive defending, this time from TP Mazembe’s Jean Kasusula who seemed to panic whilst retreating towards his own goal. Dore came close to adding a second from the resulting scramble but his shot was saved by goalkeeper Robert Kidiaba, though Thievy Bifouma was on hand to smash home the rebound. the two goal advantage was to last less than three minutes though, DR Congo scoring through Dieumerci Mbokani after great work from Yannick Bolasie, beating two defenders before finding the Dynamo Kyiv striker in the box for the easiest of finishes. Ten further minutes into the game and the scores were level, DR Congo now on the ascendancy and dominating a match quickly being thrown away Claude Le Roy’s Red Devils. The goal coming from Jeremy Bokila, another Russia based striker, swivelling in the box to rifle home an effort that Congo keeper Mafoumbi could and should have dealt with better.
At 2-2 the DR Congo Leopards sensed victory, pouring forward almost at will, bombarding a shell-shocked Congo side now reeling, unable to cope with Bolaise in particular who’s pace caused no end of problems. There was an air of inevitability for the goal on 80 minutes that put DR Congo in front, Joel Kimwaki heading home from a set-piece, a Cedric Mabwati taken free-kick. Le Roy looked on helplessly as things went from bad to worse for his side, now looking like a broken side having given away a two-goal cushion to be in a losing position with less than ten minutes of the game remaining. There would be worse to come too as DR Congo added insult to injury with a fourth goal in added time when substitute Neeskens Kebano sent through Mbokani through on goal, making sure of his second and DR Congo’s fourth goal and the all important Semi-Final berth. Questions will be asked of the goals given away by the DR Congo defence, both results of some less than impressive play, but they will be a side riding high on confidence going into the game against either Cote d’Ivoire or Algeria. Congo meanwhile exit the tournament having not won a game and will rue the lead they threw away in this match, collapse perhaps showing the sides lack of experience at this level but a lesson well learnt for the team going forward.