Mauritania took advantage of an early red card against visitors Gabon to win 2-1 on Saturday in Nouakchott, a result that qualified Les Mourabitounes for the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations. Hemeya Tanjy and Aboubakar Kamara scored in the first half for the hosts after Gabon goalkeeper Jean-Noël Amonome was sent off inside the opening five minutes. Mauritania qualify for their third consecutive AFCON and are joined by DR Congo out of Group I after the group winners defeated Sudan 2-0 in Kinshasa.
Gabon needed a victory or a draw with goals scored to leap past their hosts but Amonome was expelled in odd circumstances soon after the kick off. The goalkeeper collected an attempted cross and hit El Hassan Houbeib with his arm as the Mauritania defender harassed him. The referee called a foul on Houbeib for his obstruction but gave Amonome a red card for foul play.
The hosts were in control of the match after the early incident and opened the scoring around the half hour mark when Tanjy received a long ball behind the Gabonese defense and finished past new goalkeeper Anthony Mfa Mezui. Kamara doubled the lead before halftime when a giveaway by the Panthers defense allowed the Olympiacos striker to calmly shoot past Mfa Mezui.
It appeared to be an easy path to victory for the hosts but Gabon nearly completed a miraculous revival after Houbeib was sent off for a second yellow card in the 85th minute. Early in second half stoppage time a pass into the penalty area from Didier Ndong was misjudged by Mauritania keeper Babacar Mbaye who allowed the ball to go into the goal. A final push from the Gabonese resulted in an opportunity for right back Anthony Oyono but Mbaye made a crucial save just before the full time whistle.
Meanwhile in Kinshasa the only difficulties for DR Congo came before the match when Sudan lodged a protest over the eligibility of Swiss-born Leopards midfielder Charles Pickel who was set for his DR Congo debut. Following a delay the hosts dominated and took the lead in the eighth minute through Théo Bongonda with a brilliant assist by Pickel. 2022-23 CAF Confederation Cup leading scorer Fiston Mayele doubled the Congolese advantage late to confirm the Leopards as winners of Group I.
DR Congo return to the Africa Cup of Nations for their twentieth appearance while Mauritania qualify for their third consecutive finals. Highlights of both Group I matches are below.