Africa Cup of Nations: Equatorial Guinea hit late winner

By Piers EdwardsBBC Sport
Equatorial Guinea's Javier Balboa
Former Real Madrid player Javier Balboa curled home a dramatic winner with just three minutes left on the clock

Co-hosts Equatorial Guinea pulled off a shock by beating Libya 1-0 in the opening game of the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations.

Former Real Madrid player Javier Balboa scored a dramatic late winner when curling home with three minutes left.

The result means the Equatorial Guinea squad will receive one million dollars from President Obiang Nguema's son.

The National Lightning thought they had scored early on only for Ivan Bolado's shot to be ruled out for offside.

In an extraordinary sequence of events in the 16th minute, the co-hosts had the ball in the Libyan net on two occasions in the space of a few seconds only to not be awarded a goal.

After captain Juvenal's deflected shot came back off the post, goalkeeper Samir Aboud made a meal of Ivan Bolado's effort as the Libya captain let the ball squirm under his body and over the line.

Officials ruled out the strike for offside however after Thierry Fidjeu was adjudged to be interfering with play - with the drama magnified by the net bulging as a scrambled clearance rebounded into the net.

Libya, who qualified for the finals against the odds, forced Confederation of African Football officials to remove the old Muammar Gaddafi-associated flag from its tournament website ahead of a match which they started strongly.

However, they allowed the co-hosts to take control in the middle period of the first half as Randy, Juvenal Edjogo and Balboa impressed on the counter-attack, even if one of the best chances came from a corner as Fousseny Kamisoko headed wide.

At the other end, Libya were struggling to create any clear-cut chances - with Ahmed Zuway toiling alone up front despite some bright play from midfielder Walid El Khatroushi, who fought for the rebels during the anti-Gaddafi revolution.

In the second period, Equatorial Guinea - who were playing their first competitive match under a coach who took charge just 18 days ago - were again slow to make any impression on the half.

But Balboa's effort midway through the first half was well-blocked by Abdulaziz Berrish before central defender Laurence Doe stung the palms of Aboud with a thunderous 30-yard free-kick.

With Libya restricted to half-chances, the finals' opening game looked set to end in a lacklustre draw until substitute Daniel-Bladimiar Ekedo played in Balboa just a minute after a coming on.

Steadying himself on the edge of the box with his first touch, Balboa - who played a handful of games for Madrid in 2007 - advanced on Aboud before opening his body to curl into the top corner.

The late strike sparked the game into life as Danilo smartly tipped a fierce drive from Libyan midfielder Djamal around the corner, only for the co-hosts to instantly break free at the other end.

Narcisse Ekanga must have thought he had won the game as he crashed a curling 20-yard shot against the crossbar with the outside of his right foot, but to the delight of a packed house the co-hosts did not have to wait long for the final whistle.

Saturday's victory was a bittersweet event as regular captain Rodolfo Bodipo, who came on as a late substitute, was stretchered off with an injury - but that will be an idle thought for many Equatoguineans as the country celebrates its Nations Cup debut with a famous win.