Guinea discover one million reasons to start with a bang

 

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The Independent Online

Javier Balboa scored in the 86th minute to give co-hosts Equatorial Guinea a surprise 1-0 win over Libya in the opening match of the African Cup of Nations on Saturday. The former Real Madrid striker was sent clear by an incisive pass from substitute Daniel Ekedo and sidefooted a curling shot past goalkeeper Samir Aboud to spark wild celebrations in Bata.

Equatorial Guinea, making their debut in the finals, had been promised a bonus of $1m (£650,000) by president Teodoro Obiang Nguema's son if they beat Libya and had a first-half goal by Ivan Bolado controversially ruled out for offside after the ball slipped through Aboud's arms.

Libya, who qualified for the finals despite the ongoing conflict in their country, enjoyed plenty of possession but always looked vulnerable.

The home team, who are co-hosting the finals with Gabon, were disappointed to have their first-half "goal" chalked off and went close again when Juvenal Edjogo volleyed wide from an inviting position. Ihab Albusaifi then tested home keeper Danilo with a powerful volley during a spell of Libyan dominance but Equatorial Guinea continued to look dangerous. Lawrence Doe almost broke through with a rasping free kick stopped by Aboud.

With four minutes left Ekedo split the Libya defence and Balboa delivered the knockout punch.

 

Zambia completed an opening day of shocks at the African Nations Cup by upsetting Group A favourites Senegal 2-1. Emmanuel Mayuka headed the opener after 12 minutes and Zambia added a second goal from Rainford Kalaba nine minutes later. Dame Ndoye hit a late consolation for Senegal.

Yesterday, Ivory Coast missed a host of chances before scrapping a 1-0 win over unfancied Sudan, Chelsea's Didier Drogba getting their goal in the 39th minute. Salomon Kalou crossed from the left for his club team-mate Drogba to head home his 51st international goal, however Gervinho and Yaya Touré were particularly wasteful as they failed to kill the game off.

"I'm just very happy we got the points," Drogba said. "We did some things well and some things not so well, but the main thing was that the win the match."

Also in Group B yesterday, Angola capitalised on poor defending by Burkina Faso to win 2-1 in Malabo. Mateus and Manucho scored in the second half for the Angolans, helped by sloppy play from their opponents, with Alain Traoré scoring a superb equaliser in between.

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