Qatar-based Aaron Boupendza wins for Gabon (Photo: AFP)
By Valentine Amanze
Gabon, Morocco and Senegal recorded slim victories in the ongoing 2021 Afican Nations Cup (AFCON) in Cameroon on Monday January 10, 2022.
In the Group C fixture in Yaounde, Gabon defeated the debutants, Comoros, 1-0, while Ghana lost 0-1 to Morocco.
Senegal needed an extra time penalty to defeat hard-fighting Zimbabwe.
Gabon, which played without their COVID-19-stricken captain, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, took the day in the 16th minute through a shot off the boot of Qatar-based Aaron Boupendza.
He smashed the ball high past Comoros goalkeeper, Ali Ahamada, from a tight angle after being played in by Louis Ameka Autchanga.
Arsenal star Aubameyang and midfielder Mario Lemina missed their team’s opening fixture after testing positive for the coronavirus last week.
Comoros forward Moussa Djoumoi nearly equalised in the second half with a fierce long-range shot that Gabon goalkeeper Jean-Noel Amonome shovelled wide.
The Indian Ocean islanders are one of two teams appearing at the continental tournament for the first time, along with Gambia.
Patrice Neveu’s side moved level on three points with Morocco, 1-0 winners over Ghana earlier in the day.
Gabon will be hoping Aubameyang can return in time to face Ghana in their second match on Friday, while Comoros have their work cut out with upcoming opponents, Morocco, ranked 104 places above them.
In the western city of Bafoussam, favorites, Senegal, gave a lacklustre performance against a lowly rated Zimbabwe.
Playing without their captain, Kalidou Koulibaly, and keeper Edouard Mendy, Senagal needed Sadio Mane’s extra time penalty to humble Zimbabwe.
According to AP, Senegal never looked like Africa’s top-ranked team, or a team playing an opposition ranked 101 places below it.
But the chance for a winner finally came after Zimbabwe’s Kelvin Madzongwe was penalized for handball in the fourth minute of injury time.
Zimbabwe protested vehemently but referee Mario Escobar of Guatemala stuck by his decision after referring to VAR. Madzongwe had thrown himself to the ground trying to block a shot and the ball struck his arm.
After Mane’s penalty, Escobar whistled for full time as soon as Zimbabwe kicked off again.