African Cup of Nations: Yannick Bolasie helps DR Congo make it out of the rough

Bolasie levelled midway through the second period, sweeping into the corner after the ball fell to him on the edge of the area

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The Independent Football

Crystal Palace forward Yannick Bolasie was the inspiration for Democratic Republic of Congo as his goal rescued a point as they drew 1-1 with Zambia in the opening Group B match of the African Cup of Nations yesterday.

Zambia, champions in 2012, had taken the lead after just 62 seconds at the Ebebiyin Stadium, Given Singuluma taking advantage of an early error by Congo goalkeeper Robert Kidiaba.

Bolasie levelled midway through the second period, sweeping into the corner after the ball fell to him on the edge of the area. The Premier League player had already forced goalkeeper Kennedy Mweene to block from close range and also had a free-kick tipped past the post.

Both teams had problems with the quality of the surface, with big lumps of turf becoming dislodged. “We knew [Equatorial] Guinea obviously wasn’t ready to host this Cup,” DR Congo captain Youssouf Mulumbu of West Bromwich Albion, said. “I don’t want to criticise them. They do their best. If we want to be in better conditions, we need to go past this group stage.”

DR Congo will be fined by the tournament organisers after a printing error led to the names of the players on the back of their shirts being too small.

In yesterday’s other game in the group, Heldon’s penalty earned Cape Verde a 1-1 draw against Tunisia. Mohamed Ali Moncer put Tunisia ahead on 70 minutes after they had dominated much of the match, only for the Sporting striker to equalise six minutes later after he had won the spot-kick.

The Equatorial Guinea coach, Esteban Becker, remained satisfied with the host’s performance in their opening match on Saturday, despite conceding a late equaliser to draw 1-1 with the Republic of Congo.

Home captain Emilio Nsue scored in the 16th minute to ignite celebrations at the Bata Stadium, only for Thievy Bifouma to equalise with three minutes to go, sliding in from a tough angle.

“I’m happy that the team left a good impression,” Becker said. “But there were moments to win it.”

The home side missed a number of good chances in the second half to stretch their lead before having to settle for a draw late on. 

Goalkeeper Felipe Ovono saved Equatorial Guinea in the second half when he dived to push away a Ladislas Douniama effort, while a free-kick from Republic of Congo also struck a post.

“The players fought until the end,” Congo coach Claude Le Roy conceded. “It’s not so bad.” The Frenchman was left to complain about the 65-minute drive his squad were forced to undertake to reach the stadium, in sweltering heat and without air conditioning in its bus. “It’s not possible to disrespect players like that,” he said.

The opening day’s other match went the way of Gabon, 2-0 winners over 2013 finalists Burkina Faso. Borussia Dortmund forward Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang scored before setting up Malick Evouna’s goal to take Gabon top of Group A.