Gabon seemed to have secured victory with 53rd minute goal from their talismanic striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. Jose Antonio Camacho’s side were, however, unconvincing throughout and the final whistle brought boos from the home supporters at the Stade De L’Amite.
Before the action got underway there was an entertaining opening ceremony, with mascot Samba the Black Panther leading a dancing troupe and some acrobatic dancers swinging through the sky.
The game opened with a poor crowd in attendance, though it seemed to have as much to do with security being slow at letting people in, than any “stay-away” in protest at the amount spent on the tournament by the Gabonese government. By the time the first half ended, there was a far healthier following inside ground, with more still trying to get in.
The hosts, however, could not really get going in a stodgy first half on a typically sticky late afternoon in Libreville. Aubameyang was given a huge roar as his name was read out by the tannoy announcer, but came up with only one decent bit of skill in the first half, a superb cross that Evouna Malick failed to finish off with his head.
Otherwise, it was all misplaced flicks and passes from the Borussia Dortmund striker, though he was far from alone as Camacho’s side failed to click. The cohesion was lacking between the likes of Aubameyang, Manuel Lemina and Malick in attack.
When Malick did get another chance from a Lemina pass, he couldn’t find the target, and the Juventus midfielder Lemina also failed to get to a well-taken Athanse Bouanga free kick.
Credit must also go to Guinea-Bissau, the debutants stifling their opponents and also posing a threat on the break. Their best chance of the first half came when Toni Silva brilliantly controlled a through ball, but guided his effort wide.
Gabon started the second half far brighter, possibly with some words of wisdom from Camacho ringing in their ears. Bouanga’s curler was tipped over by Jonas Mendes.
And they had their lead in the 53rd minute, Bouanga’s low cross steered home from close range by Aubameyang, to send the home crowd wild.
Aubameyang had a chance to add another in the 69th minute, as he got on the end of Lemina’s cross, but volleyed over the bar.
Guinea-Bissau, however, began to create the better chances as the game wore on. Baciro Cande’s missed a great chance to level matters in the last ten minutes, as substitute Frederic Mendy got a free header inside the Gabon penalty area, but guided his effort straight at Didier Ebang. Ebang could do nothing in stoppage time, however, as Soares rose highest leave the hosts with plenty to ponder.
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