Gabon have been eliminated from the African Cup of Nations after suffering a 2-1 defeat at the hands of Zambia.
Goals from Rainford Kalaba and James Chamanga ensured victory for the Copper bullets with a late strike from Gabon’s Marcolino providing a tense finish, however in the end Zambia were worthy of their win.
It was the worst possible result for Gabon as they were eliminated on goal difference and leap-frogged by Zambia who qualify in first place and Cameroon in second, who were held by Tunisia. All 3 clubs finished level on 4 points in with Tunisia coming last with 3.
The managers tinkered little with previous line-ups. Giresse opted for Rogu Meye instead of Pierre Aubameyang and Stephane N,Gueme was surprisingly left on the bench.
There was a maybe a hint of what was to come in regards to the managers. Herve Renard was out-fitted in a white,silk shirt and sported long blonde locks while Alain Giresse looked like dad when he washes the car on a Sunday.
It was nervy start to game with both teams flooding the midfield and stifling and real creativity. However it was Zambia that started the brightest and early chances should have warned Gabon of impending doom.
Unfortunately the Gabonese defence was a fairly static throughout the game and in 28 minutes they were slow to intercept a throw ball from Felix Katongo. It was beautiful pass, threaded through to Kalaba who was composed enough to chip over Didier Ovono and into the gaping goal.
Ovono was incandescent with rage and rightly so. The centre halves were split open and caught dreaming, now Gabon had it all to do.
An immediate response was required but unfortunately not forthcoming. The creative hub of attack for Gabon was Rogu Meye but again and again he failed to link up with the dis-interested looking Cousin. High balls were pumped up to the attackers but were often far from connecting and when nice passages of play were put together with neat grounded passes, the final ball was poor.
Zambia were far the better team and should have doubled their lead with great chances from the brilliant Kalaba however despite his earlier effort he managed to squander at least 2 gilt edged chances before the break.
The Zambian’s continued their onslaught at the beginning of the second half. Through balls were continually slotted through to Clifford Mulenga on the left hand side and his crosses were either met with fortunate deflections or last ditch tackles.
Gabon were being opened up at will and in 62 minutes Mulenga turned nicely in the box and squared a cross to an unmarked Chamanga who rolled the ball into an empty net.
The tie and Gabon’s hopes of qualification looked to be over.
Gabon had to go for broke which in turn left them open to counter attack and Ovono did well to prevent a 3rd goal in 70 minutes when Mulenga bet the off-side trap and shot to close to the keeper.
Fabrice Do Marcolino’s came on to replace Alain Djissekadie in 78 minutes and 5 later minutes he scored to give Gabon hope. Despite fumbling his first touch he managed to get a shot in and the ball deflected off Zambia’s Mbola and into the net.
The late goal panicked Zambia and in the last 5 minutes and 4 minutes of extra time foolish tackles led to the award of Gabon free-kicks in dangerous areas outside the Zambia box. However each of these chances were criminally wasted with blasts into the defensive wall or feeble mis-hits into the crowd. When the ball was humped into the box by Ovono the Zambian defence were resolute either heading clear or thumping the ball into the sidelines.
In the end Zambia deserved their win and Gabon can be disappointed that they did,nt live up to early tournament promise.