A late goal from the Beir-Mar striker has offered the Nzalang Nacional a win on their first ever participation at the Afcon
Javier Balboa struck a brilliant late goal on 87 minutes at the Bata Stadium to give Equatorial Guinea an unforgettable start to the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) and leave Libya ruing their inability to translate their possession into something concrete.
The Mediterranean Knights had the better of the early exchanges, maintaining possession and looking more cohesive against a host team that started the match relying on ineffective long balls. The first chance fell to the visitors six minutes into the game when Walid Al Khatroushi cut in from the right and dribbled into the penalty area, but Fousseiny Kamisoko was there to deny him with a last ditch tackle.
Libyan domination didn’t last long though as the hosts shook off their nerves and began creating opportunities by playing off Ivan Bolado.
Iban 'Randy' Iyanga acted as creator for the Nzalang Nacional, who had a goal controversially disallowed when Thierry Fidjeu was perhaps harshly judged to have interfered with Samir Aboud’s botched save attempt. With the stadium alive and buzzing, the Equatorial Guinea players were causing one problem after another for the Libyan defence but lacked the killer touch on all eight of their first half shot attempts.
The second half was much like the first in that both sides looked tentative at the start, but the two eventually settled down and began exchanging attacks. The high tempo didn’t last though as the teams went back into their shells and much of the period was played at a rather pedestrian pace.
The Libyans were slightly more composed than their opponents but could not get their tall centre-forward, Ahmed Zuway, the type of service he needed to be effective. A defensive lapse resulted in Equatorial Guinea defender Lawrence Sokota Doe belting a free kick that Aboud did well to save on 72 minutes.
With both teams seemingly content to settle for a point, it looked like the match would end scoreless, but Nzalang Nacional substitute Akedo Chigozirin split the Libyan defence with a through ball that found Javier Balboa, and the former Real Madrid player curled his effort in and sent the home fans into rapturous celebrations. Ekanga could have added a second in the dying minutes.
The unlikely victory is an important one for coach Gilson Paulo and his team, as it has given Equatorial Guinea their first win ever on the continental stage, and also because the players will be splitting a $1 million cash prize offered to them by the son of president Teodoro Obiang.