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Madagascar edge DR Congo in heated matchup

In front of their always vocal home support, the Barea of Madagascar finally obtained their first points in the second round of FIFA World Cup qualifying on Sunday by defeating the Democratic Republic of Congo 1-0. A first minute goal from Njiva Rakotoharimalala was enough for the hosts to hold off the Leopards and keep their faint hopes of winning Group J alive. DR Congo remain two points back of co-leaders Tanzania and Benin as the final stretch approaches.

Attractive football came at a premium as fierce tackles and bad blood between the sides provided the dominant storyline. Fans did not have to wait long before the game’s lone goal came, however. An excellent buildup from an energized Madagascar side led to right back Romain Metanire getting free out wide. The Minnesota United player sent in a perfectly placed low cross to find Rakotoharimalala, with the Thai-based attacker making no mistake by smashing his shot into the back of the net to stun the visitors.

When Congolese defensive leader Chancel Mbemba was forced to leave the match in the 16th minute due to an injury sustained from a fierce challenge by Paulin Voavy, the match degenerated into a physical battle with moments of nastiness. Only a minute or two later, Congolese midfielder Edo Kayembe returned the favor by coming in hard when challenging Marco Ilaimaharitra to leave the midfielder rolling around in pain. The match had to be stopped for several minutes as both teams confronted each other and the tone was set for the rest of the game.

As far as opportunities, there was not much in the way of attacking football and both teams struggled to create anything beyond half chances. Congolese striking duo Dieumerci Mbokani and Cédric Bakambu were well held in check by the Malagasy defense and were starved of service. Energized by the home crowd and attendance of president Andry Rajoelina, the Barea were aggressive while maintaining organization and discipline in defense. The hosts nearly found a second in the 76th minute when Njiva sent in a far post cross from the right flank but Fabrice Rakotondraibe came just shy of getting on the end.

The teams confronted each other again at the conclusion of the match due to the Congolese being enraged by what they felt was time wasting tactics by the hosts, but the Leopards can only blame themselves for not rising to the occasion and taking advantage of an opportunity to move top of the group. Highlights of the match are in the link below.

Highlights from FIFA TV

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