Orange Africa Cup of Nations – Wednesday 25 January 2012
Libya (2) – (2) Zambia
The second round of group fixtures kicked-off today, which would, if results went a certain way, see the first teams qualify for the Quarter-Finals. After their opening game wins, both Zambia (nicknamed, Chipolopolo – The Copper Bullets) and Equatorial Guinea (nicknamed, Nzalang Nacional – National Lightning) knew that victory today would see them through. Toto famously sang, “…I bless the rains down in Africa…”, although I don’t think the organising committee of the Africa Cup of Nations would agree! The start of this game at the Estadio de Bata was delayed 75 minutes after torrential rain, however even at kick-off the pitch had a great deal of surface water. This didn’t seem to deter Libya (nicknamed, The Mediterranean Knights) who within five minutes had gone ahead. Walid Elkhatroushi picked up the ball midway in the Zambian half and threaded a ball to Ahmed Saad Osman, whose crisp finish was impressive given the wet conditions. With both sides bogged-down (quite literally) by the conditions, the game became scrappy. However, Zambia did get themselves level just before the half-hour mark. From a Rainford Kalaba cross dug-out of a puddle on the left, Emmanuel Mayuka cleverly hooked in a right foot volley across Libyan keeper Samir Abod. The second-half got off to an explosive start, as within two minutes, LIbya went 2-1 ahead. Substitute Ihab Albusaifi got down the right and behind the Zambian defence, to cross into the box. The Zambian defence failed to clear and Ahmed Saad Osman skipped past a couple of tackles and slotted in off the post. Within seven minutes the game was back all square at 2-2. Mayuka’s clever over-head kick sent the ball to the right where Christopher Katongo headed in. Both sides went looking for the winner, with the best chances falling to Ahmed Saad Osman and Ahmed Zuway for Libya and Christopher Katongo and brother Felix for Zambia. There was late drama in the dying seconds as Zambia thought they should have a had a penalty. However, it was not to be and the tournament had its first drawn game. Given the conditions it was a credit to both sides that the game was as good as it was. Although whether the game should have gone ahead in the first place is a different argument entirely.
Equatorial Guinea (2) – (1) Senegal
With the delay to the first match in Bata, this fixture was also put back by 75 minutes. Senegal (nicknamed, Les Lions de la Teranga – The Lions of Teranga) knew that defeat would see them (one of the favourites) out of the competition. On a pitch still sodden and worse for wear after the earlier game, there was drama aplenty. Senegal were quickest to settle in the difficult conditions with Fenerbahçe midfielder Issiar Dia pulling all the strings for Senegal. However, as with Morocco earlier in the week, the Senegalese didn’t capitalise on their chances and at the break the game stood at 0-0. Equatorial Guinea started the second-half with more intent and now it was a much more open, end-to-end game. Senegal paid for their profligacy on 62 minutes when Equatorial Guinea went ahead. A cross-field ball found Kily, whose teasing centre was headed home by Randy. As expected Senegal responded, but their attacks were becoming more desperate as the clock ticked down. Then on 89 minutes, home fans hearts were broken. From a free-kick a hopeful ball was pumped into the box, which ricocheted around until substitute Moussa Sow hooked in an equaliser. Suddenly the stadium was silent and the Equatorial Guinea team looked out on their feet. Senegal sensed that perhaps there was time for a winner. Incredibly, there was a clinching goal, but it was for Equatorial Guinea. Four minutes into time added-on, Kily received the ball outside the Senegal penalty area and unleashed an unstoppable shot into the net – cue pandemonium on the pitch and in the stands! One of the favourites Senegal were out and the lowest ranked team in the tournament were through to the Quarter-Finals. Who said lightning never strikes twice!
Final Group A fixtures: Sunday 29 January – Equatorial Guinea v Zambia and Libya v Senegal