DR Congo regained control of their 2023 Africa Cup of Nations qualifying campaign with a crucial 3-1 home victory against Mauritania in Lubumbashi on Friday.
A red card in the first half ended Mauritania’s chances of a point, and the Congolese onslaught took advantage with goals from Gal Kakuta, Cédric Bakambu, and Arthur Masuaku.
After their first win of the season, the Leopards are presently one point behind second-placed Mauritania, three points behind Sudan, and four points behind Group I leaders Gabon.
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For his competitive debut as DR Congo coach, head coach Sébastien Desabre’s roster, bolstered by the additions of several European-based talents, gave the Leopards an advantage at the Stade TP Mazembe, but an unusual incident aided the Congolese even more.
Idrissa Thiam of Mauritania was shown a red card shortly after the twenty-minute mark after striking the face of Meschak Elia while attempting to stop a dribbling run.
After 15 minutes, a cross from Yoane Wissa found a wide open Kakuta, who gently placed a rolling shot beyond Mauritania goalkeeper Babacar Mbaye.
Mbaye made numerous acrobatic stops, but he was at fault for DR Congo’s second goal when he was caught in possession by Bakambu, who was left with an easy finish into an empty net to increase the Congolese lead.
The visitors equalized early in the second half when left defender Aly Abeid tucked a shot past DRC goalie Jol Kiassumbua after a frantic dribbling run into the penalty area.
Mauritania’s chances of picking up a draw in Lubumbashi were dashed in the 67th minute when left back Masuaku unleashed a twisting shot from distance that soared past Mbaye and in off the crossbar for a magnificent goal.
In five days, the two teams will play another match that will determine which team will join group leaders Gabon in qualifying out of Group I.