Oyem - Junior Kabananga pounced on a goalkeeping error to
give the Democratic Republic of Congo a 1-0 win over Morocco in an Africa Cup
of Nations upset on Monday in Gabon.
Success came two days after the central Africans refused to
train over a bonuses row and a red card and an injury meant they were briefly
reduced to nine men in the closing stages.
Victory took the "Congolese Leopards" to the top
of Group C after the opening round as defending champions the Ivory Coast were
held 0-0 by Togo in the first half of a double-header.
Kazakhstan-based midfielder Kabananga profited from a
mistake by Munir Mohamedi in the Morocco goal to score from close range 10 minutes
into the second half.
Defeat was a major blow for France-born Morocco coach Herve
Renard, winner of the competition with Zambia in 2012 and the Ivory Coast in
2015, who has set a last-eight place as his minimum target.
After the disappointment of watching the Ivorians and the
Togolese draw 0-0 in a dour duel, the small crowd in Oyem were hoping for more
excitement in the second match.
They almost saw a goal in the second minute as Morocco
midfielder M'bark Boussoufa rattled the crossbar with goalkeeper Ley Matampi
It was a sign of things to come as the "Atlas
Lions" from north Africa stamped their authority on the early exchanges
only to be let down by poor finishing.
The Congolese, third at the last Cup of Nations behind the
Ivory Coast and Ghana, were reduced to hopeful long-range shots during the
Striker Cedric Bakambu tried his luck from well outside the
box and the effort was comfortably held by Mohamedi.
Defender Chancel Mbemba was equally ambitious with his shot
on goal that flew wide.
The opening half ended with Morocco, whose lone Cup of
Nations title came in 1976, on top territorially but with nothing to show for
And the frustrations of Renard turned to disappointment when
his team fell behind 10 minutes into the second half largely due to a blunder
The Spain-based goalkeeper failed to grasp a routine cross
and when the ball broke loose, Kabananga nipped in to score with a left-foot
Renard made several substitutions as the match entered the
closing stages, but the lack of goals that afflicted Morocco in recent World
Cup qualifiers continued.
The Congolese were reduced to 10 men with eight minutes left
when a wild challenge from Joyce Lomalisa earned a second yellow card.
DR Congo were temporarily reduced to nine men when injured
captain Gabriel Zakuani had to leave the field for treatment.
He returned to see Matampi pull off a great save from a
Youssef El Arabi header to keep the two-time African champions in front.