16 January 2017

Congo-Kinshasa/Morocco: Leopards Capitalise on Chances to Take Down Atlas Lions

Photo: Samuel Shivambu/BackpagePix
Although Morocco were on the front foot for much of the match and had the lion’s share of chances, a goal 10 minutes after halftime from Junior Kabananga won DR Congo the match.

The Democratic Republic of Congo put behind them a row over bonuses that saw the players skip training last week to eke out a crucial 1-0 victory over Morocco in their opening Group C match at the African Nations Cup finals on Monday.

A goal 10 minutes after halftime from Junior Kabananga settled the tie, though Morocco were on the front foot for much of the match and had the lion's share of chances.

They finished the match with 10 men after substitute Joyce Lomalisa got two yellow cards and was sent-off nine minutes from time. Having not picked up a single booking in his previous 20 appearances for his country, it was a moment of madness from the midfielder that showed the tension of the occasion.

It might not have been pretty, but in a group that also contains Cote d'Ivoire, who drew their opener 0-0 with Togo, it was a vital win for coach Florent Ibenge and he will take it however it came.

"The opponent [Morocco] was positioned with a surplus in midfield. We decide to play with a little higher players and be patient," Ibenge said. "We knew that coming out [after halftime] that could pay off if we remained very strong in defence."

Ibenge says he expects a strong Ivorian backlash when they meet in their second pool clash on Friday.
"All matches are complicated. Do not read to much into the draw (0-0) of Cote d'Ivoire, they remain a team able to draw against France. Everything will be difficult. "

Morocco coach Herve Renard, gunning for a third continental title after previous wins with Zambia (2012) and Cote d'Ivoire (2015), felt his side deserved more.

"I think we were well into the game with a successful first half. We gave DR Congo many problems, even though they are a very difficult team to handle. We had opportunities in the game, but we could not make them count when it mattered.

"We conceded a goal on one of the only opportunities of the DR Congo. This is football, you must be clinical. In a competition like the Nations Cup, it is important not to get discouraged, there will be many twists and turns, it is for us to put ourselves in a good position when we face the Cote d'Ivoire in our third game."

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