African Cup of Nations - Late drama sends Gabon through

Fri, 27 Jan 21:06:00 2012

Co-hosts Gabon qualified for the quarter-finals of the African Cup of Nations after Bruno Zita Mbanangoye's 98th free-kick handed them a 3-2 win over Morocco.

Gabon's Eric Mouloungui (11) dribbles the ball past a pack of Moroccan players during their African Cup of Nations Group C soccer match at the Stade De L'Amitie Stadium in Libreville - 0

Substitute Mbanangoye's curling set-piece deep into stoppage time triggered jubilant scenes at the Stade de Angondje in Libreville.This result sent Gabon through with Tunisia, while Morocco and Niger were both eliminated after a dramatic day in Group C.

Morocco looked to have secured a 2-2 draw after Houssine Kharja's 90th minute penalty had cancelled out goals from Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Daniel Cousin.

Kharja had earlier given Morocco a first-half lead, but with two defeats from two games, Eric Gerets's team will play no further part in the tournament after their dead rubber with Niger.

Gabon coach Gernot Rohr kept an unchanged side from the one which defeated Niger in the opening match. For Morocco, Mehdi Carcela-Gonzalez replaced Mbark Boussoufa and Youssef El Arabi was preferred in attack to Nordin Amrabat. Oussama Assaidi and Marouane Chamakh were only fit enough for a place on the bench.

Morocco started with more intent and right-back Michael Chretien should have done far better with his 11th minute effort. Younes Belhanda found the defender in space on the right of the area but he fired wide of the near post with a clear sight of goal.

Gerets's side took a deserved lead when Kharja collected an excellent low cross from Belhanda, switched the ball onto his left foot and drilled a shot into the bottom right corner of Didier Ovono's goal. It was poor defending from the co-hosts who allowed the Fiorentina midfielder far too much room in the area.

Gabon, though, reacted well and should have drawn level moments later but Youssef El Arabi headed wastefully off target when unmarked in the area.

The decision of coach Rohr to bring on Cousin at half-time proved decisive as the veteran striker unsettled Morocco with his aggressive style of play.

Aubameyang left the Morocco defence for dead in the 49th minute and pulled the ball back for Cousin who forced a good save from Nadir Lamyaghri.

The co-hosts controlled much of the second-half and Lamyaghri was forced to turn away a powerful shot from Edmond Mouele.

For all their possession, Rohr's team were finding clear cut chances hard to come by until Aubameyang's 77th minute equaliser. Morocco failed to properly clear the ball and Aubameyang volleyed a stunning effort that gave Lamyaghri no chance.

It would get even better two minutes later as Cousin controlled an Aubameyang cross, spun in the area and fired a low left-footed effort beyond Lamyaghri to the delight of the home support.

Lévy Madinda blazed a glorious chance over the bar from close range and it looked as if he would rue that miss as in the 90th minute Charly Moussono handballed Belhanda's shot in the area to concede a penalty.

Captain Kharja stepped up and comfortably dispatched the ball past Ovono as Morocco equalised against the run of play.

But there was even more drama to come as substitute Mbanangoye stepped up to curl in a free-kick in the eighth minute of stoppage time after a foul on the edge of the Morocco area.

Gabon will face Tunisia in the final match to decide who will progress as group winners.

Stewart Coggin / Eurosport

Not already a Yahoo! user ? to get a free Yahoo! Account