Leopards' guile see them past National Elephants

football02 February 2024 22:10| © Backpage TXT

DR Congo advanced to the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations semifinals after they battled back from behind to beat Guinea 3-1 at the Alassane Ouattara Stadium on Friday, February 2.

Kaba Diawara's side hit the front through Mohamed Bayo's penalty on 20 minutes, but Chancel Mbemba quickly restored parity and Yoane Wissa fired the Leopards ahead from the spot in the 65th minute, before Arthur Masuaku drove the final nail into the National Elephants' coffin on 82 minutes.

Sebastien Desabre's side will now await the winner of the quarterfinal clash between host nation Ivory Coast and Mali on Saturday, February 3.

Both teams looked to be positive from the get-go and DR Congo should have taken the lead on four minutes when Yoane Wissa poked the ball of goal from eight yards out after a long throw-in caused the Guinea defenders to panic.

Theo Bongonda then dragged a shot well wide from range in the 14th minute, but the National Elephants were presented with a golden opportunity to open the scoring after they were awarded a soft penalty three minutes later.

Mbemba made shoulder-to-shoulder contact with Bayo as he looked to shepherd the ball out from a cross and the striker went to ground. VAR checked the incident and allowed the referee's decision to stand, with Bayo sending the goalkeeper the wrong way to put Guinea ahead on 20 minutes.

However, the Leopards skipper made amends just seven minutes later as he fired home from a tight angle at the back post after the National Elephants failed to deal with a corner.

The pace dropped off in the closing stages of the first half due to the heat, although the Central Africans went close in the final minute when Cedric Bakambu got a slight touch on Arthur Masuaku's free-kick and the ball flew wide of the target.

DR Congo threatened twice in the opening stages of the second half as Wissa's free-kick deflected just wide of the post off the wall in the 49th minute before the Brentford winger curled an effort well beyond the far post from inside the box on 52 minutes.

The referee pointed to the spot again on 62 minutes and this time it was in favour of the Leopards after Julian Jeanvier caught Silas Katompa Mvumpa as he surged into the box. Wissa placed his spot-kick out of Kone's reach into the bottom left corner of the net to register his second goal of the tournament.

A series of fouls broke up the tempo of the game, which suited DR Congo and they sealed the win eight minutes from time with an exquisite goal from Masuaku, who whipped his free-kick over the keeper's head from the left wing.

The National Elephants made a late push to get back into the contest, but Jeanvier blazed his shot over the crossbar from inside the box in the 93rd minute before Serhou Guirassy glanced a header wide from a corner moments later.

DR Congo (1) 3 (Mbemba 27', Wissa 65', Masuaku 82')

Guinea (1) 1 (Bayo 20' PEN)

DR Congo: L. Mpasi, G. Kalulu, C. Mbemba, H. Inonga, A. Masuaku, T. Bongonda (A. Tshibola 84'), S. Moutoussamy, C. Pickel, M. Elia (S. Katompa Mvumpa 59'), C. Bakambu (S. Banza 72'), Y. Wissa (J. Kayembe 84').

Guinea: I. Kone, I. Diakite (A. Conte 90+1'), M. Diakhaby, J. Jeanvier, I. Sylla, M. Guilavogui (A. Toure 59'), N. Keita, A. Diawara (S. Guirassy 69'), S. Sylla (F. Conte 59'), M. Bayo (F. Kamano 90+2'), A. Camara.