DR Congo top Group C with 3-1 win over Togo
By Mark Gleeson
PORT GENTIL, Gabon (Reuters) - Junior Kabananga kept up his goal-scoring form at the African Nations Cup to help send the Democratic Republic of Congo into the quarter-finals as they beat Togo 3-1 on Tuesday and finished top of Group C. The tall striker, whose participation was confirmed only at the last minute, is now the leading scorer at the tournament after he netted the opening goal in the 29th minute. There were second-half contributions from Ndombe Mubele and Paul-Jose Mpoku while Kodjo Laba pulled one back for Togo, who finished last in the group standings with a single point. DR Congo amassed seven points and will play the team who finish second on Wednesday in Group D in the weekend quarter-finals.
Kabananga has now scored in all three Group C games, his latest goal coming as he ran on to a superb defence-splitting pass from Newcastle United’s Chancel Mbemba, though he still needed to shrug off defender Serge Gakpe before steering home the ball.
The 27-year-old Kabananga had originally been left out of the Congolese 23-man squad for the tournament in Gabon but a change of heart by coach Florent Ibenge saw the Kazakhstan-based forward included just before the deadline for the submission of the players’ list expired.
He might have had another goal just before halftime with a looping header that hit the inside of the post before bouncing out.
DR Congo doubled their lead in the 54th minute as Mubele beat the offside trap and chipped the goalkeeper.
Togo, who had to win to stand any chance of progress, pulled one back as substitute Laba drove in his first touch from close range.
However, a curling free kick in the 80th minute from Mpoku restored the two-goal advantage.
Togo’s failure to qualify marked only the second time in eight tournaments that veteran coach Claude Le Roy, who has been to more Nations Cups than any other, has failed to place a team in the last eight.
It was also the last international for Emmanuel Adebayor, their talismanic captain, who was denied a consolation goal in stoppage time when Merveille Bope cleared off the line.
After the final whistle, the Congolese team formed a guard of honour to applaud Adebayor off the field.
(Reporting by Mark Gleeson; Editing by Clare Fallon)Modified 20 Mar 2019, 14:54 IST