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Gabon sneak by AFCON newcomers Comoros

Striker Aaron Boupenza struck against the run of play in the first half to give Gabon a crucial 1-0 victory over Comoros in Monday’s closing match at the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations. Les Panthères are now in contention to move into the knockout stages ahead of matchups against Group C favorites Ghana and Morocco despite Covid-19 absences and controversy off the pitch. AFCON debutants Comoros will be disappointed with the result but looked more than capable on the big stage.

Comoros controlled possession for most of the match but struggled to break down a Gabon side that defended in numbers. The teams cancelled each other out for most of the first half, but as Comoros gained confidence and moved forward, the Coelacanths were caught out on the counter. In the 16th minute, a long ball from the Gabonese defense was flicked by Boupendza off his back to Louis Ameka. Ameka weighted his return pass well to find Boupendza in stride, who unleashed a blast into the roof of the net from a sharp angle to stun Comoros goalkeeper Ali Ahamada.

Boupendza’s opener only increased Gabon’s resolve to focus on defending and the strategy worked well with Boupendza and Saint-Étienne forward Denis Bouanga causing danger with their speed and dribbling. Bouanga came close to doubling the lead in the 72nd minute but his hard shot was right at Ahamada, who fought the ball off.

Comoros came closest to equalizing in the second half soon after the close miss from Bouanga, when substitute Moussa Djoumoi turned quickly upon receiving the ball and unleashed a fierce shot at Gabonese keeper Jean-Noël Amonome. The AmaZulu net minder did just enough to turn the ball around the post and Gabon was able to hold off for the three points.

Highlights of the match are below. Gabon are off to battle Ghana in a crucial match while Comoros turn their attention to Morocco next.

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