DR Congo got their 2023 Africa Cup of Nations qualifying campaign back on track with an important 3-1 home victory over Mauritania in Lubumbashi on Friday. A first half red card spoiled Mauritania’s hopes of earning a point and the Congolese attack took advantage with goals from Gaël Kakuta, Cédric Bakambu and Arthur Masuaku. The Leopards are now within a point of second placed Mauritania, tied on three points with Sudan and four behind Group I leaders Gabon following their first positive result of the campaign.
On head coach Sébastien Desabre’s competitive debut as DR Congo coach, a squad boosted by the additions of several European-based stars gave the Leopards an edge at the Stade TP Mazembe but an odd incident helped the Congolese even more. Soon after the twenty minute mark Mauritania midfielder Idrissa Thiam was issued a red card when he struck the face of Meschak Elia while attempting to halt a dribbling run. Fifteen minutes later a cross from Yoane Wissa made its way through to a wide open Kakuta, who calmly placed a rolled shot past Mauritania goalkeeper Babacar Mbaye.
Mbaye came up with several athletic saves but the Portuguese-based keeper was at fault for DR Congo’s second when he was caught in possession by Bakambu, who was left with an easy finish into an empty net to double the Congolese advantage. The visitors got one back early in the second half through left back Aly Abeid when he poked a shot past DRC keeper Joël Kiassumbua following a mazy dribbling run into the penalty area.
Any hopes for Mauritania of earning a point in Lubumbashi were extinguished in the 67th minute when left back Masuaku unleashed a swerving drive from distance that flew past Mbaye and in off the crossbar for a fantastic goal. The two teams will play another match in five days that will be crucial in determining the team likely to join group leaders Gabon in qualifying out of Group I.
Highlights from Friday’s match are below.