Gabon gets off to flying start wtih group win over Burkina Faso
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang helped Gabon to a flying start at the African Cup of Nations as they beat Burkina Fason 2-0 on Saturday.
Borussia Dortmund striker Aubameyang scored against the run of play to give Gabon a first-half lead before Malick Evouna added a second with 18 minutes left. Paul Put’s Burkinese – who finished as runners-up to Nigeria in the 2013 edition of Africa’s continental championship – had appeared to be in complete control early on.
However, they were once again undone by Jorge Costa’s men, having finished behind them in their qualifying group following a defeat and a draw in their two meetings. Didier Ovono was superb in the Gabon goal, keeping Burkina Faso at bay almost single-handedly at times, while Aubameyang and Evouna’s composure at the other end represented the difference between the sides.
Victory saw Gabon take early control of Group A after Equatorial Guinea and Congo’s 1-1 draw earlier in the day. Burkina Faso started the match in positive fashion, bursting forward at pace and putting Gabon under pressure high up the pitch, and only a fine 12th-minute save from Ovono prevented Bertrand Traore from opening the scoring.
Ovono was caught out in the 19th minute as he raced out of goal, but his defenders dealt with the danger, and Gabon soon snatched an unlikely lead. Aubameyang was sent through one-on-one by a clever pass from Andre Biyogo Poko, and although he was initially denied by Germain Sanou, the Dortmund striker kept his cool to convert the rebound between players covering on the line.
Costa’s side grew in confidence following that breakthrough, although they remained prone to lapses in defence. In the 30th minute, two simple, quick passes almost resulted in the leveller, but Jonathan Pitroipa – the top scorer in qualifying – scuffed a tame effort into the arms of the goalkeeper.
A personal duel was developing between Pitroipa and Ovono, and the shot-stopper prevailed once more in the 37th minute – Pitroipa firing straight at him from five yards after a cross-cum-shot fell into his path. With the first half played at such a frenetic pace, it was little surprise that the tempo dropped after the break.
The game became more stretched and in the 65th minute, both keepers were required to make reaction saves as play switched rapidly from end to end. But there was nothing Sanou could do when Gabon doubled their lead in the 72nd minute.
Frederic Bulot showed great feet to beat his defender on the right before digging out a wonderful cross from the byline, which was emphatically met by the head of Evouna. Pitroipa almost provided a moment of inspiration in stoppage time but, after an incisive run, his shot was blocked.
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