Congo comes back for pulsating 2-2 draw with Ghana

GERALD IMRAY AP Sports Writer Published:

PORT ELIZABETH, South Africa (AP) -- Congo came back from 2-0 down for a 2-2 draw with Ghana at the African Cup of Nations on Sunday as Group B's opening game swept away the tournament's damp start with a pulsating contest at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium.

Emmanuel Agyemang Badu's finely-worked goal late in the first half and Kwadwo Asamoah's header early in the second put Ghana two up and on course for an opening win and a reassuring start to the African Cup.

But having already threatened to lead in the first half, Claude Le Roy's competitive Congo rallied in the second through Tresor Mputu in the 53rd and Dieumerci Mbokani's penalty in the 67th, which the tall striker won and then buried with a languid stroke into the top right corner.

The African Cup had gone through nearly five halves without a goal before Agyemang Badu was the first of four scorers in Port Elizabeth. If only there were more fans to watch.

Congo was also inches away from winning when Yousuf Mulumbu's late shot was clawed away by Fatawu Dauda. And in one final thrill, Asamoah Gyan's header was just kept out by flamboyant Congo goalkeeper Muteba Kidiaba on the goal line in the final seconds of the four minutes of added time.

From the moment Gyan nearly connected with a dangerous cross in the second minute, to the Ghana captain's near-miss right at the very end, the game served up rapid and expansive attacks one after the other in the kind of advert for African football desperately lacking in the opening two games at Soccer City on Saturday night.

"I think it is not possible to get a better image of African football than the game between these two teams," Le Roy said.

Despite the rich entertainment for the fans, the draw was still a blow to title contender Ghana's campaign, with regular rival Mali and then Niger still to come in the group.

"All we have to do is go home and correct our mistakes ... and come back hungry," Gyan said.

Having survived a rough opening five minutes, Congo responded to rattle Ghana's crossbar in the 13th minute through Lomana Lualua -- instantly grabbing the Ghanaians' attention. Mputu also went close straight after.

Ghana appeared to have impressed its authority with Agyemang Badu's superb goal in the 40th, which was set up by an outstanding one-two between Kwadwo Asamoah and Gyan before Agyemang Badu slid in to score from close range.

Asamoah headed in a corner at the far post off the bar of Kidiaba's goal for a comfortable advantage for the Black Stars.

Against the backdrop of well-publicized problems over tournament bonuses for the squad, and Le Roy's apparent threat to resign last week, Congo's players might be in for a rewarding tournament after their attacking invention in the first half and stirring fightback in the last 35 minutes.

Mputu was played in by Cedric Makiadi to push a shot with the outside of his right foot across Dauda and into the far corner for 2-1.

Mbokani's spot kick after he was the player dragged down in the area sent Kidiaba, the unmistakeable pony-tailed Congolese 'keeper, into his traditional and bizarre celebrations as he went bouncing around his penalty area on his backside.

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Lineups:

Ghana: Fatawu Dauda, John Pantsil, John Boye, Emmanuel Agyemang Badu, Derek Boateng (Anthony Annan, 72), Mubarak Wakaso, Kwadwo Asamoah, Jerry Akaminko, Albert Adomah (Harrison Afful, 82) , Christian Atsu (Rabiu Mohamed, 56), Asamoah Gyan.

Congo: Muteba Kidiaba, Mpeko Issama, Dedric Mongongu (Gabriel Zakuani, 74), Kiritsho Kasusula, Destin Mabiala, Yousuf Mulumbu, Tresor Mputu, Dieumerci Mbokani, Lomana Lualua (Deogracis Kanda, 66), Cedric Makiadi, Mulota Kabangu (Dioko Kaluyituka, 67).