Polokwane - A well-deserved 1-0 victory by Gabon over the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in the African Nations Championship threw Group D wide open at the Peter Mokaba Stadium in Polokwane on Saturday.
In a tight match, Gabon did enough to justify the three points as they showed more fluency and cohesion in attack for most of the game. They created the better chances, although the DRC were not without their own threats going forward.
While possession was evenly shared in the opening stanza, it was the west African side Gabon who looked more of a threat with Leopards keeper Robert Kidiaba the busier of the two shot-stoppers.
Gabon got off to a perfect start, taking the lead in the second minute when centre-back Erwin Nguema stole in between two defenders before powering a header past Kidiaba.
The DRC had chance to pull a back a goal, when Firmin Mubele missed the far post with a drive from a tight angle and Gabon keeper Stephane Moto pushed away Eric Miala's free kick in the 14th minute.
The first half ended with a close call for a second Gabon goal as Samson Mbingui's speculative long range shot deflected onto the roof of the DRC net.
Mbingui was a threat to the opposition defence with his pace and clever left foot, although he should have done better when released clean through on goal five minutes after the restart. His parting shot was too close to Kidiaba, who made a superb reflex save with one hand.
The resultant corner also nearly led to a goal as an unmarked Tchen Kabi sent a header just wide of the near post.
Struggling to penetrate the Black Panthers' defence, the DRC were always going to need something special to get onto the score-sheet and this was nearly provided by left-back Jean Kasusula's 75th minute spectacular, long-range shot, which was swerving considerably and forced Moto into a sharp save.
The DRC applied some late pressure as they looked to try and salvage a draw, but there was nothing serious enough to trouble Moto and his defenders as Gabon held on for maximum points.
The win leaves Gabon on four points from two games, while the DRC have three points after their opening two matches.