Cyprus Mail

Guinea Bissau snatch shock draw against hosts Gabon in African Cup opener

Guinea-Bissau's Juary Soares and Jonas Mendes celebrate drawing with Gabon

By Mark Gleeson

Guinea Bissau centre back Juary grabbed a last-gasp equaliser to continue their fairytale African Nations Cup campaign as they held hosts Gabon to a surprise 1-1 draw in the opening match of the tournament in Libreville on Saturday.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang looked to have delivered a winning start for a nervy-looking home team with the opener after 53 minutes but Gabon got caught on the stroke of full time from a set piece as Juary scored with a flying header.

Guinea Bissau were shock qualifiers and had been given little chance at the finals but they proved gutsy contenders despite looking tired in the closing stages as they kept pushing forward against their much vaunted opponents.

A floated free kick from captain Zezinho caught the Gabon defence napping as the two sides went into stoppage time at the end of the match, allowing the Portuguese-based defender Juary to deliver a hammer blow to home hopes.

In humid conditions, and after a noisy opening ceremony, it took 20 minutes for Gabon to create a first chance, followed quickly by a second opportunity for Malick Evouna, who missed with a header and then hit a follow-up shot wide of the target.

Guinea Bissau, who looked far from overawed in the biggest game in their history, got their first effort at the Gabon goal on the half hour but Zezinho blasted wide.

The hosts dominated the midfield exchanges in the second half and French-born debutant Denis Bouanga provided a cross from the right that Borussia Dortmund striker Aubameyang slid home from close range to break the deadlock.

But Gabon’s first game under new coach Jose Antonio Camacho turned sour and leaves them with an uphill task to advance from a tough group that also includes Burkina Faso and Cameroon, who meet later on Saturday at Stade l’Amitie.

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