Co-host of African Cup of Nations earns bonus with 1-0 upset
By MARK WALSH
updated 4:57 p.m. ET Jan. 21, 2012
BATA, Equatorial Guinea - Equatorial Guinea made a dramatic and rich debut in the African Cup of Nations with a stunning 1-0 win over Libya in the tournament opener on Saturday.
Equatorial Guinea qualified for the first time only because it's the co-host with Gabon, but it gave Africa's showpiece event a terrific start despite police having to tear gas some of the thousands of fans who overcame the security at Bata Stadium to force their way in.
In a game in which Equatorial Guinea deserved to win, it threatened the upset throughout and finally delivered when Javier-Angel Balboa scored after racing onto a throughball and slotting past Libya goalkeeper Samir Aboud into the top corner in the 87th minute.
"We played a good game. We had trained so little time, but the tactical dedication of our players was great," said Equatorial Guinea coach Gilson Paulo.
Paulo had only a few weeks to get to know his squad after replacing predecessor Henri Michel, who resigned just before the tournament.
This week, the team was promised a $1 million bonus from the son of the country's president if the team won the match.
"It's the famous $1 million," midfielder Juvenal Edjogo-Owono said a grin. "For us the money is not very important, the most important thing is to start the competition with a win.
"Now we will see the future more optimistically."Edjogo-Owono missed a chance in the first half when his deflected shot rebounded off a post. Ivan Bolado put the rebound into the net, but the effort was disallowed for offside.
Despite injured captain Rodolfo Bodipo managing only a 15-minute substitute role, Equatorial Guinea belied its billing as the tournament's lowest-ranked team by matching Libya and creating opportunities.
Libya controlled possession early on, the first half-chance falling to Walid al-Katroushi, who was tackled at full stretch by Rui Da Gracia just before shooting in the opening minutes.
Unexpectedly, the co-host then took control of the match, forcing Libya goalkeeper Samir Aboud into some nervous fumbles.
The game continued its surprise pattern into the second half. Thierry Fidjeu tried an acrobatic finish but hooked his volley wide in the 53rd.
Meanwhile, Libya's players looked sluggish and hesitant - overawed perhaps by the expectations of a nation hoping to cap a year that included the overthrow of Moammar Gadhafi with sporting success at the African Cup.
After the final whistle, the fans streamed outside blowing vuvuzelas and dancing with their hands in the air.
Libya coach Marcos Paqueta congratulated Equatorial Guinea.
"The conditions were very difficult facing the Equatorial Guinea team at home," he said.
"We started the game well, we kept the ball well, but the team started after that to get a bit nervous so we missed easy passes and lost control."
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