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Africa Sports News of Friday, 26 March 2021

Source: goal.com

Arsenal’s Aubameyang powers Gabon to 2022 Africa Cup of Nations

Gabon have qualified for the 2022 Africa Cup of Nations after defeating DR Congo 3-0 on Thursday evening.

Goals from Denis Bouanga, Aaron Boupendza and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang were all the Panthers needed to ease past the Leopards at the Stade de Franceville.

They will be making their eighth appearance at the biennial African football showpiece since their maiden appearance at Tunisia 1994 - where they finished 12th.

Having lost 2-1 to Gambia the last time out, the Gabonese national team’s qualification ambition was left hanging in the balance as they dropped to second in Group D – just one point ahead of third-placed Congo.

In dire need of a win, coach Patrice Neveu named a star-studded squad that included their Arsenal player alongside Dijon's Bruno Ecuele, Saint-Etienne's Bouanga and Hatayspor's Boupendza.

That paid off as the Panthers dominated every department of the game from the very blast of referee Janny Sikazwe’s whistle. Albeit, they were unable to convert the few early chances that came their way despite boasting superior ball possession.

A minute before the half-time break, however, Turkey-based Boupendza handed Neveu’s team the lead after unleashing a beauty past goalkeeper Joel Kiassumbua with Guelor Kanga supplying the assist.

Coach Christian Nsengi-Biembe’s Leopards came out stronger in the second-half, nonetheless, they were unable to break down their strong-willed hosts even with the presence of Royal Charleroi’s Jordan Botaka and Wydad Casablanca’s Kazadi Kasengu leading their attack while veteran midfielder Tresor Mputu held sway in the midfield.

Their aspirations of launching a comeback suffered a massive setback as Gabon doubled their advantage through Bouanga in the 72nd minute. Capitalising on a defensive mishap by the visiting team, the speedy French-based star beat his markers after he was released by Aubameyang, found his composure, and they fired through Kiassumbua’s legs.

Four minutes from full time, captain Aubameyang sealed the win with a close-range strike courtesy of Kanga’s assist.

With this result, the Panthers have staged a return to the competition after missing out on Egypt 2019. Gambia are also through to the finals after stunning Angola 1-0 in Bakau, with Assan Ceesay’s 62nd-minute effort settling the tight encounter while DR Congo’s flag will not be hoisted in Cameroon.

Gabon face Angola in their last group game on Monday in what will be a dead-rubber affair.

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