Equatorial Guinea 1 Congo 1: Late strike denies hosts
Thievy Bifouma scored a dramatic late equaliser as Congo fought back to claim a 1-1 draw with hosts Equatorial Guinea in the Africa Cup of Nations opener in Bata on Saturday.
Emilio Nsue's 16th-minute strike appeared to have put Equatorial Guinea - who were only given a place at the tournament as hosts after Morocco were stripped of the right to stage the competition - the victory.
The Middlesbrough forward opened the scoring by slotting home following great work from Kike Seno.
Equatorial Guinea spurned a number of chances to extend the lead from there and saw an Nsue second controversially ruled out for offside.
And they were ultimately made to pay by Almeria forward Thievy, who ensured a share of the Group A spoils three minutes from time when he capitalised on some sloppy defending to steer the ball in at the near post .
Esteban Becker's side enjoyed the better of the opening stages and, although Prince Oniangue shot narrowly over the crossbar from long range for Congo, Equatorial Guinea were rewarded as Nsue fired home following a fine bit of individual play from Kike.
Kike nutmegged a defender on the right flank and surged towards to the edge of the area, before slipping a ball through for Nsue to slot through goalkeeper Christopher Mafoumbi's legs.
Equatorial Guinea looked far from secure at the back, though, and they were fortunate to see Marvin Baudry squander a chance to level in the 27th minute by heading into the side-netting following goalkeeper Felipe Ovono's rash decision to try and collect a free-kick to the far post.
The rest of the first half was scrappy, but Iban Edu did force Mafoumbi into a scrambling save with an effort from more than 40 yards after spotting the shot-stopper off his line.
Midfielder Ellong Doualla was brought on for Pablo Ganet by Becker at half-time, but Equatorial Guinea should have been reduced to 10 men three minutes into the second half. Iban swung an elbow into the face of Cesaire Gandze but was not punished, despite the Congo midfielder requiring lengthy treatment.
Javier Balboa was then denied by Mafoumbi before substitute Ladislas Douniama drew a strong save from Ovono at the other end.
Mafoumbi was called into action again to keep out a rasping half-volley from Nsue, who looked to have finally doubled his tally in the 74th minute with a clever lob from the edge of the area, only to be incorrectly denied by the assistant's flag.
Francis N'Ganga struck the post with a free-kick as Congo pushed for a leveller, which finally came when Thievy converted from substitute Dominique Malonga's throughball.
Malonga was then presented with a glorious opportunity to complete the turnaround in injury time, but he could only shoot straight at the goalkeeper from six yards out.