Port-Gentil - Junior Kabananga set DR Congo on their way to
a comfortable 3-1 win against Togo in Port-Gentil on Tuesday to clinch an
Africa Cup of Nations quarter-finals spot.
Kabananga's opener came just before the half-hour mark and
Neeskens Kebano ran through to increase the lead in the 54th minute.
Kodjo Fo-Doh Laba pulled one back for Togo but a Paul-Jose
Mpoku free-kick with 10 minutes left completed the scoring as an impressive
Congolese side secured first place in Group C.
They will now return to Oyem in northern Gabon for a
quarter-final on Sunday, while Togo are eliminated after failing to win a game.
Morocco also go through after a 1-0 win over the Ivory Coast
which knocked out the reigning champions.
"Having gone top of the group after two rounds of games
we needed to remain vigilant and we did that," said DR Congo coach Florent
"They gave us a fright after we had gone 2-0 up and had
we not matured as a team thanks to the two years we have spent together we
might have panicked."
At the beginning of the night DR Congo, semi-finalists in
2015, knew a draw would be enough for them to clinch their place in the last
eight while Togo had no choice but to win.
Togo coach Claude Le Roy left out veteran goalkeeper Kossi
Agassa, judging him to be still too fragile mentally after his house in Lome
was vandalised by fans who blamed him for the team's defeat to Morocco on
Baba Tchagouni got the nod in goal but he lasted just 23
minutes before having to be substituted after aggravating an injury suffered
while making an early clearance.
On came Cedric Mensah, who plays in the French lower
leagues, and he was soon picking the ball out of his net.
The impressive Chancel Mbemba slipped a pass through for the
giant Kabananga, and he outpaced and outmuscled Serge Gakpe before slotting low
past the 'keeper.
Kabananga almost scored again on the stroke of half-time,
but his header from a Kebano corner looped up towards the far corner only to
come back off the post.
The Leopards were only made to wait until nine minutes into
the second half before increasing their lead, however.
A first-time hoof downfield by Marcel Tisserand completely
caught out the Togolese defence and found Kebano in an onside position. He had
the time to control before lobbing the ball over the stranded Mensah.
DR Congo then thought they had scored again but Jonathan
Bolingi's effort was disallowed for offside.
Instead Togo gave hope to their sizeable support in the
Gabonese port city when they pulled a goal back just past the midway point in
the second half.
Skipper Emmanuel Adebayor and Floyd Ayite combined to set up
Laba and the substitute finished low at the near post.
But DR Congo restored their two-goal advantage through
Panathinaikos midfielder Mpoku, who came off the bench to curl a fine free-kick
over the wall and in off the underside of the bar, the ball just crossing the