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Tanzania come back to earn valuable point at DR Congo

DR Congo got off to a promising start in their FIFA World Cup qualifying home opener against Tanzania in Lubumbashi, but allowed the Taifa Stars back into the match and were forced to settle for a disappointing 1-1 draw on Thursday. Dieumerci Mbokani marked his return to international football by scoring the opener for the Leopards before an outstanding long range strike from Wydad Casablanca forward Simon Msuva levelled the match for the visitors. Group J looks to be wide open as the two teams await the result of Madagascar and Benin, who are set to play later on Thursday.

The hosts looked to get on the front foot from the beginning and a talented squad produced early opportunities. Amiens SC forward Chadrac Akolo in particular had a couple of chances to get DR Congo off to a positive start, with a 5th minute pass from Samuel Moutoussamy setting up Akolo for an open look but he shot high and wide. Akolo was set up with another good chance in the 20th minute when Yannick Bolasie used some clever and flashy dribbling to get to the endline, but Akolo was caught between whether to head or volley Bolasie’s cross and his finish did not have enough power to trouble Aishi Manula in the Taifa Stars goal.

A few minutes later the hosts found their opener and it was all-time leading scorer Mbokani who provided the needed finishing touch. Cedric Bakambu, who was credited as the player responsible for convincing Mbokani to return to the Leopards setup, got behind the defense on the left flank and cut the ball back low as Manula came out to close down the angle. Mbokani stretched out a long leg to tap the cross into the unguarded net and DR Congo were up.

Instead of putting their heads down, Tanzania provided a remarkable response and began to put serious pressure on the Congolese defense. Reliant Lusajo in particular was active in generating offense for the Taifa Stars, and his shot from the edge of the penalty area drew a save from Joel Kiassumbua in the DR Congo goal. Only a minute later, the equalizer came for Tanzania when sloppy play from Moutoussamy in the midfield turned the ball over to Lusajo. The Namungo midfielder found Msuva with a square pass, who had passing options arriving but shooting was the only thing on his mind as the forward launched a thunderous blast that rattled in off the underside of Kiassumbua’s crossbar.

The match arrived at halftime with the score 1-1, but Msuva’s goal rattled the Congolese, who struggled to get back to creating opportunities after conceding the equalizer. Once the Tanzanians recognized that moving their lines up a bit more allowed them to compete on even ground with DR Congo, it was difficult for the Leopards to reverse the trend. The hosts managed to get forward more and put some pressure on at the end, but Taifa Stars keeper Manula had much less to do in the second half with poor finishing the story for DR Congo.

One point will be a big disappointment to the Congolese, who have high hopes of winning Group J but losing points at home could be costly. Tanzania now can move forward knowing they belong in contention for the valued group winner spot. Highlights from the match are below.

FIFA TV Highlights

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