Soccer News of Sunday, 18 January 2015
Yannick Bolasie earned DR Congo a 1-1 draw against Zambia with a rasping second-half finish in their opening Africa Cup of Nations Group B match.
The Crystal Palace winger, who was a threat throughout, arrowed in a shot from inside the area on 66 minutes.
Given Singuluma had put Zambia ahead after only 62 seconds, lashing home from the edge of the box.
DR Congo had the better chances, with Bolasie and Dieumerci Mbokani going close, but could not find a winner.
After Saturday’s smooth hosting of the first two matches of the tournament, it was the turn of the remote eastern town of Ebebeyin to continue to allay fears over inadequate facilities and organisation.
But it was quickly evident that it was not going to be straightforward at the 5,000-capacity stadium, with lots of fans without tickets being turned away and those with tickets further delayed from entering the stadium while everyone was screened for Ebola.
The supporters’ frustrations boiled over and some of them clashed with a large police presence outside the ground. Those difficulties meant them that the stadium was not full when Zambia took the lead after only 62 seconds.
It was a superb start from the 2012 champions as Singuluma lashed in a shot into the bottom corner after DR Congo keeper Robert Kidiaba had punched away a cross to the edge of his area.
That set the tone for some hesitant goalkeeping at both ends, and an open game.
Only six minutes later, DR Congo should have levelled when keeper Kennedy Mweene spilled a tame cross, gifting Dieumerci Mbokani a golden chance which the striker wasted by blasting over from six yards.
Mweene proved more competent on the half-hour mark when his stretched out a leg brilliantly to save from DR Congo’s Bolasie.
He also produced an eye-catching, if comfortable catch, when he dived to his right to pluck Mbokanbi’s header from the air.
Zambia’s best first-half moments came from skipper Rainford Kalaba, whose trickery and pace down the flanks gave his side an attacking threat.
But DR Congo looked more likely to add to the scoring and Bolasie came close when his free-kick just before the break was deflected narrowly wide.
Bolasie tested Mweene with another set-piece soon after the interval and the stopper proved to be up to the task, albeit without inspiring total confidence.
It was almost inevitable that Bolasie would finally get the breakthrough for DR Congo and when substitute Cedrick Mabwati laid the ball across to him, the forward thumped it into the top corner to put his side deservedly back on level terms.
Zambia had been inviting pressure onto them until that point and were unable to change the pattern of the game thereafter.
And if DR Congo had been able to convert their superior possession and territory, the Chipolopolo would have lost their record of never having been beaten in Equatorial Guinea.
Instead, the Leopards could only manage a tame long-range effort from Junior Kabananga and a speculative overhead kick from Mbokani as they had to settle for a point.
Zambia coach Honour Janza:
“It was most important that we did not lose this match because opening games are often very tricky.
“We learnt a few things and this will be a stepping stone for us in this competition.”
DR Congo midfielder Youssouf Mulumbu:
“We deserved to have won this game because we were the better team today, but we missed many chances.
“We showed fear at the beginning and did not react quickly when we went behind so early in the game.”