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Gabon first off the blocks as Nations cup begins

Gabon seized control of Group A after the opening round of matches at the Africa Cup of Nations on Saturday, beating Burkina Faso 2-0 while hosts Equatorial Guinea drew with Congo Brazzaville.

Jorge Costa’s Panthers triumphed in Bata thanks to a goal in each half, with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s opener after 19 minutes being followed by a Malick Evouna strike on 72 minutes.

Aubameyang, the Gabon captain who plays his club football in Germany for Borussia Dortmund, kept his cool to finish after initially being denied by Burkina Faso goalkeeper Germain Sanou.

That goal came on the break, with the Stallions dominating the game, and the 2013 Cup of Nations runners-up were then denied an equaliser in the second half when Didier Ovono saved from Bertrand Traore.

Soon after, Evouna clinched the win for Gabon to leave Paul Put’s Burkina Faso already up against it in their bid to reach the last eight.

PULSATING ENCOUNTER

“If you can’t score goals, you can’t win matches. That’s the rule of this game,” lamented Put, while his opposite number Costa admitted luck was on Gabon’s side.

“Burkina Faso are the strongest in our group, but today we had the luck and we also had Didier (Ovono). He was decisive for us.”

Earlier, the hosts’ dream of starting their campaign with a win were cruelly spoiled as a late Thievy Bifouma strike earned Congo Brazzaville a 1-1 draw.

Bifouma, of Spanish side Almeria, slid the ball under Equatorial Guinea goalkeeper Felipe Ovono three minutes from time to cancel out captain Emilio Nsue’s 16th-minute strike and ensure that the tournament’s opening game ended all square.

It was a pulsating encounter, played in front of a sell-out crowd of 35,000 in Bata, in the best possible start for a competition which was only moved to Equatorial Guinea at the last minute following Morocco’s withdrawal over Ebola fears.