Julio Tavares and Stopira provided the second half goals to help Cape Verde comeback from a lackluster first half and overtake Central African Republic by a 2-1 score in FIFA World Cup qualifying on Saturday. The Blue Sharks were facing elimination if they could not obtain a victory at home, but with the victory they are now two points behind Group C leaders Nigeria with a final day match coming up in Lagos on Tuesday.
Central African Republic have proven to be stubborn opponents throughout the second phase despite not being able to play home fixtures in the country due to lacking a suitable stadium, and that trend continued on Saturday. In the 10th minute, it was Les Fauves who shockingly took the lead in front of a large partisan crowd in Mindelo. Thibault Ban ran on to a ball near the corner on the right wing and sent in a bouncing cross that found its way to Isaac Ngoma in the middle of the Cape Verdean penalty area, who made no mistake putting his finish away past keeper Marcio Rosa.
It took some time before the hosts could recover from the early gut punch, and CAR did well to hold out for a long period of time. CAR keeper Prince Samolah came up with an excellent save in the 23rd minute after a combination between Kenny Rocha Santos and Tavares created an open shooting opportunity in the box for Rocha Santos that was parried away. Rocha Santos then embarked on a good run down the left wing before cutting back for Steve Furtado, who had a wide open shot from eight yards out but leaned back as he struck the ball and sent it over the bar.
An excellent individual play was what undid the CAR resistance, and it came in the 52nd minute to spring the Cape Verdean crowd into life. A hopeful long ball from the defense bounced into the CAR penalty area and the defense failed to deal with it as Tavares snuck in between the defense and keeper Samolah. As the ball bounced extra high on the artificial turf, Tavares was able to get under it and performed an athletic bicycle kick maneuver to finish past Samolah and equalize.
From then on, it was dominance for Cape Verde as they pushed for the go ahead goal knowing the only acceptable result was a victory. A 62nd minute corner kick from Rocha Santos found center back Steven Fortes charging in but his powerful header was cleared off the line. However, the 75th minute brought joy to the crowd when another corner kick service from Rocha Santos found Stopira for a header on goal. A CAR defender appeared to clear off the line, but the referee noticed the player was clearly behind the goal line when clearing the ball and awarded the goal for Cape Verde.
The Blue Sharks held on for the crucial three points and now will give their all to obtain a victory in Lagos when they face Nigeria. Highlights of their win over CAR are in the link below.
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