Hosts denied opening day Nations Cup triumph

A late equaliser cost Equatorial Guinea an opening win at the Afcon finals as they drew 1-1 with Congo.

FILE: Equatorial Guinea’s national team poses for a picture during a visit of the Bata stadium in Bata, Equatorial Guinea, on January 16. Picture: AFP.

EQUATORIAL GUINEA - A late equaliser cost hosts Equatorial Guinea an opening win at the Africa Cup of Nations finals as they drew 1-1 with Congo on Saturday before Gabon beat Burkina Faso 2-0 to top Group A.

Congo's Thievy Bifouma netted three minutes from time to deny the tiny host nation a rousing start to the hastily-arranged tournament as a more than capacity crowd turned out at the Estadio de Bata for the tournament curtain raiser.

Clad almost exclusively in the red colours of the home team, the supporters willed Equatorial Guinea to start with a victory after Emilio Nsue opened the scoring in the 17th minute.

The hosts' captain slipped the ball under the Congo goalkeeper after a through pass from Kike, although television replays showed he was marginally offside.

Nsue might have scored two more goals but one effort was blocked and he was wrongly ruled offside when he found the net with a superb chip over goalkeeper Christoffer Mafoumbi.

Other missed chances kept Congo in the game and, as Equatorial Guinea tired in the latter stages, Bifouma outpaced the home defence and expertly slipped the ball past keeper Felipe Ovono from a tight angle for an 87th minute equaliser.

"We would have been in serious trouble had we lost. Our tournament could have been over before it started," said Congo coach Claude Le Roy.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Malick Evouna were on target as Gabon beat Burkina Faso in the second game with a goal in each half. Borussia Dortmund striker Aubameyang confirmed his potential to become the next African superstar with a cool finish after 19 minutes and Evouna headed home just under 20 minutes from time to secure a hard-fought win.

"We were up against a really good team so this is a satisfying win," said Gabon coach Jorge Costa.

For Burkina Faso, runners-up at the last finals, it was a surprise defeat. "It's imperative we win our next game otherwise it will be all over for us," said captain Charles Kabore.

The start of the tournament took some of the focus away from the organisational troubles during the build-up but Le Roy still had harsh words for the organisers after his team were stuck in traffic for an hour on the way to their match.