• Two time winners, the Democratic Republic of Congo face host nation Cameroon in the quarter-final of the 2020 CHAN. They survived a late flurry of pressure to beat Niger 2-1 at the Ahmadou Ahidjou Stadium on Monday.
By Beng Emmanuel
The Democratic Republic of Congo finished top of group B at the on-going 2020 African Nations Championship unbeaten to set up an entertaining quarterfinal clash with host nation Cameroon on Saturday at the Japoma Stadium in Douala.
A late 2-1 win against Niger confirmed the team’s status as group winners after two wins and a draw. Congo Republic qualified as runners-up after a narrow 1-0 victory over Libya in Douala.
Masasi Amede scored a late winner for the DR Congo after super-sub Moussa Issa cancelled out John’s Kabangu first half opener.
The Leopards had few options for the game after twelve players (12) players and the coach tested positive to Covid-19. But it didn’t affect the outcome of the game as the 2020 Chan aspirants fought their way through.
Niger were the dominant force within the early moments of the tie. Garba Halidou got two glaring chances to put his side ahead but he was never truly composed to score through any of such occasions.
His first attempt-a low drive went slightly off target but his second was way below standard. He couldn’t compensate for Ibrahim Djibrila’s run from the centre circle who then provided him with a good opportunity to test DR Congo ‘s keeper.
The DR Congo regained confidence and began dominating the game although; they never came close to create any lucrative opening. They won most of their duels, and pushed Niger to commit silly faults being unable to cope with the rising pressure thereafter.
They resorted to use long strikes to make their possession count. But finally found their breakthrough when John’s Kabangu headed home from Nathan Idumba’s cross for the opener. Their lead spurred them to become more creative and audacious but they remained vigilant not to carelessly give up their lead.
Niger-who had squandered a litany of chances were determined to level before the break. Despite the urge to change the narrative of the game, they were less clinical and frequently committed boyhood errors which affected their output.
Kabangu almost got a first half brace shortly before the break but he was hesitant before Abdoul Razak who dealt with the threat with relative ease.
Both teams returned for the last segment of the game more determined for a win. While Niger mounted more pressure, the DR Congo relied on their individual talent to make the difference.
Makabi Glody caused havoc for Niger by producing some clever moments. He easily beat two defenders before hitting the site net from close range. He further hit a fine free-kick straight into the keeper.
And while DR Congo savoured their lead Niger suddenly rose from their debacle second half debut, but getting an equalizer seemed like a farfetched reality. Their efforts paid off when Moussa Issa came off the bench to score from a fantastic header.
Roared by their fans Niger continued to pressed high for a second. Adamou Moussa ran past the Congolese defence and fired wide from close range.
Niger’s goalkeeper Abdoul Razak committed a defensive blunder which allowed Masasi Amede net late winners from a brilliant finish although it sparked controversy on Niger’s bench.
The Democratic Republic of Congo finished with seven points ahead of Congo Republic. They will face Cameroon for the third time at the CHAN after 2011 and 2016 where they lost on both occasions.
It is the fourth time the two time CHAN winners are making it to the knock-out stage of the continental football tournament reserved exclusively for home based players.
In the second game played at the same time in Douala, Congo Republic beat Libya to finish second of group B. They face group A winners Mali in Yaoundé.
• DR Congo vs Cameroon
• Mali vs Cogo Republic
• Niger 1-2 DR Congo
Moussa Issa-73 minutes /John’s Kabangu-27 minutes, Masasi Amede 90+1
• Congo Republic 1-0 Libya
Guatrand Ngouonimba-50 min
FINAL GROUP B STANDINGS
1. DR Congo-7pts
2. Congo Republic-4pts