SAN PEDRO, Ivory Coast :The Democratic Republic of Congo squandered a number of chances in a 1-1 draw with Zambia, who took the lead thanks to quick-thinking before being swiftly pegged back in their Africa Cup of Nations Group F clash at the Laurent Pokou Stadium on Wednesday.
Kings Kangwa put Zambia ahead in the 23rd minute with an innovative effort but their neighbours equalised within four minutes through Yoane Wissa.
The two countries were the last to make their bow at the tournament in the Ivory Coast after favourites Morocco had beaten Tanzania 3-0 in the opening group game earlier at the same stadium.
Zambia’s goal came against the run of play but it was smart thinking that caught the Congolese cold after their goalkeeper Lionel Mpasi came dashing off his line to try and intercept Zambia captain Patson Daka down the left flank.
The clash felled both players and the ball went out of play but Daka reacted quickly to take the throw-in which went back to team mate Kangwa.
He hit it goalward from well outside the Congolese penalty area and watched in delight as it bounced between two scrambling defenders and into the empty net with Mpasi late in getting back to his goal.
But as innovative as the Zambian effort was, the response from the Congolese four minutes later was classic in its construction. Midfielder Gael Kakuta hit a perfect pass over the midfield for Cedric Bakambu to run on to and he, in turn, played his square pass with precision for Wissa to tuck away.
The Congolese went close to going ahead three minutes after, but veteran defender Stoppila Sunzu, who was in Zambia’s 2012 Cup of Nations winning side, cleared off the line from Bakambu.
Congo were awarded a penalty on the hour mark when Zambia right back Tandi Mwape slipped as he attempted to block a cross and it looked as if the ball had rolled over his hand. But a lengthy VAR check eventually decided it had come off his chest.
There were good chances for Theo Bongonda, Bakambu and Wissa in the final 15 minutes as the Congolese pressed for the win.
Substitutes Simon Banza and Silas Katompa had even better opportunities in the closing minutes as the Zambia defence looked panicky and desperate for the contest to end.
The Congolese next face Morocco on Sunday, which will be followed by Tanzania against Zambia.
(Editing by Toby Davis)