Africa Cup of Nations hosts Gabon faltered to a shock draw against underdogs Guinea-Bissau, falling foul to a late equaliser.
Gabon’s manager Jose Antonio Camacho had never managed Gabon in a game going into the fixture, having taken over only just over a month prior to the tournament and the side having their pre-tournament warm-up games cancelled.
However, expectations were still high for the Spaniard, a supreme left back in his prime with an excellent CV in management. Two spells at Real Madrid, one at Sevilla and taking Spain to both Euro 2000 & the 2002 World Cup. The latter of which, the team could well have reached the semi-finals if not for that infamous loss to South Korea.
It was a lacklustre first half, one which ended 0-0, Evouna being the owner of the best chance of the half, yet still it was nowhere near the most clear-cut of chances.
Gabon came into the second half a different side. Sharp and full of much more tenacity than the first half. After some promising play, Gabon put themselves in front. Who else but Aubameyang, the host’s star man, doing the honours by sliding the ball home from two or three yards out.
One would expect Gabon to put the pedal to the metal and accelerate forward into an easy win or extended margin but it was quite the opposite. All the fight disappeared and it made the side look very tame, they allowed Guinea-Bissau to walk all over them. The small West-African nation being much the better side.
However, it looked like despite the poor display, that Gabon would get away with it. They had already survived one scare when Mendy missed a fantastic opportunity to pull level by heading his one-on-one chance direct from a free-kick delivery straight at the keeper.
But in stoppage-time Guinnea-Bissau finally made Gabon pay when Juary Soares’s diving header found the back of the net. Zezinho’s delivery from a free-kick on the right was impeccable and Soares gave it the finish it deserved.
Gabon had the first real chance of the game. Aubameyang’s cross went just beyond Evouna as he failed to connect well with his head. Evouna soon won the ball back again and curled a shot from distance over the bar.
Guinea-Bissau had a half-chance when Zezinho took advantage of the Gabon defence backing off, only to fire an ambitious effort over the bar from well out.
Gabon missed yet another great chance for a headed goal. Bouanga’s marvelous free-kick from the right swung across the face of goal with Juventus’ Mario Lemina just missing out on a diving header by a matter of centimetres.
Towards the end of the half, Gabon’s Tandjigora was remarkably spared of a yellow card for a wild tackle on former-Everton & Benfica youth player Francisco Santos Junior.
Gabon came racing out of the blocks in the second half. Bouanga forced a save out of Jonas Mendes after cutting onto his right foot on the left hand side of the box.
Soon, their new found intensity in the second half payed off when Aubameyang put his side into the lead with a close-range strike, much of the move down to a mistake from Guinea Bissau’s defender Soares. Soares failed to clear Evouna’s ball from the right-wing to Bouanga on the left hand side of the box, completely mis-hitting it. Bouanga then played the ball across the face of goal, setting up Aubameyang for an easy goal. The forward sliding in and finishing from a few yards out.
Guinea-Bissau made the first change of the game with Joao Mario being brought off for Piqueti Djassi.
Piqueti nearly made an instant impact on the counter. He made an excellent run down the left and looked goalbound before he attempted to cut inside and was immediately blocked off.
The first yellow card of the match and the tournament was for Obiang who cynically brought down Nanissio from behind.
Guinea-Bissau then made yet another substitution, bringing Mendy on for Camara
Aubameyang nearly netted a second, making the most of a difficult opportunity. The Borussia Dortmund forward put the ball just over the bar on the volley from Lamina’s early cross.
Another half-chance fell to Guinea-Bissau, Toni Mendes made an excellent swerving run before unleashing a shot from outside the box which went through a gap in the defence but the ball went straight into the arms of Ovono.
Gabon made their first substitution, bringing Kanga on for Lemina. Guinea-Bissau then made their final substitution of the match and brought Aldair on for Santos and the team was soon to receive a booking: left-back Soares was yellow carded for sliding in on Bouanga.
Gabon made a substitution: Poko coming on for Tandjigora.
Substitute Mendy missed a golden opportunity to put Guinea-Bissau level. A swinging free-kick picked him out. He had a clear sight of goal but his header while one-on-one with Ovono went straight at the goalkeeper.
Gabon made their final substitution: Angoue on for Evouna.
Guinea-Bissau then did the incredible, equalising right at the death in stoppage time. Soares’s diving header putting the underdogs level with Gabon. Zezinho’s fantastic free kick was met with his diving header which guided the ball into the back of the net.
The full-time whistle was met with boos. The host nation stumbling to a 1-1 draw with the much unfancied Guinea-Bissau, the smallest nation in the competition.
The first meeting between these two sides was certainly one to remember.