Two first-half goals from Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Stephane N’Guema gave Gabon the perfect start to their 2012 African Cup of Nations campaign with a 2-0 victory over Niger in Libreville on Monday.
Gernot Rohr’s side were in control of the match from start to finish, and were never in any real danger of conceding against a lacklustre Niger side, who lacked the quality to pose any threat to Didier Ovono’s goal.
The tournament co-hosts dominated much of the opening 45 minutes, with Niger resorting to speculative long range shots. Aubameyang should have gave Gabon the lead in the 17th minute when he took the ball down well at the back post but saw his shot well saved by goalkeeper Daouda Kassaly, who came out quickly and remained big to block the attempt.
The Mena were lucky not to be reduced to 10 men in the first half when Issoufou Alhassane went in with a two-footed lunge on Charly Mousonu, only to be shown a yellow card from referee Eddy Maillet.
The Panthers broke the deadlock through a well-worked move on the half-hour mark. Nguema took advantage of space on the right-hand side to drive down the wing and hang a cross to the back post for Aubameyang, who squeezed a header past Kassaly, who found himself caught under the ball.
The sheer grit and determination of Gabon was summed up by their second goal 15 minutes later. Niger were attempting to play the ball out from the back when Eric Mouloungui slid in with a perfectly timed challenge to steal possession and set up an attack down the left.
Mousonou delivered an excellent cross into the box for Aubameyang who glanced a header at goal only for Kassaly to make a sturdy save, but N’Guema was on hand to fire home the rebound and send the home support into raptures.
Gabon were comfortable for much of the second half, and things went from bad to worse for Niger when Moutari Amadou went down after a badly-timed challenge from N’Guema. The Mena had already made all three of their substitutions and so they were forced to play the last quarter of the match with 10 men.
The match had already been settled, however. Gabon top Group C on three points and the other clash in the section features Morocco and Tunisia, who play on Monday evening.