Captain Emilio Nsue Lopez struck a goal in the 90th minute at the Estadio de Malabo as Equatorial Guinea beat Tanzania 1-0 to qualify for next year’s Total Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON).
Tanzania had put up a defensive shield for most of the game with goalkeeper Aishi Manula making save after save to guard a point and give themselves a chance, but Lopez broke their hearts with a late goal, while lifting his country into the plane to Cameroon.
Tanzania had hoped to hold on for a point and give themselves hope heading into the final match of the group, but defeat now means their journey to attaining back to back AFCON qualifications has come to an end.
With the victory, Equatorial Guinea moved to nine points while Tanzania remained third with four points. Their final day match against Libya in Dar es Salaam will be a mere formality with the Equatoguineans and Tunisia qualifying from Group J.
The Nzalang Nacional were dominant and had the most of chances, all denied by the excellent Manula and the woodwork.
Early into the game, Manula thwarted the first danger from the home side, pushing Emilio Lopez’s well struck effort from the right against the crossbar.
In the seventh minute, the goalkeeper once again kept his side in the game, parrying away a well struck swerving freekick from Jose Machin Dicombo while Pedro Obiang volleyed the rebound over.
The home side kept the pressure and had another chance in the 17th minute, but Salomon Ondo couldn’t put enough power to his shot from the edge of the area, the keeper collecting calmly.
Three minutes later, Equatorial Guinea were denied by the bar again when Jose Boacho’s volley from a corner came against the crossbar with the Tanzanians desperately clearing the rebound away.
It was same story in the second half as the home side dictated the play and pinned Tanzania into their own half, defending deep and making desperate clearances.
Two minutes after the restart, Tanzania survived again thanks to the post when Dicombo’s freekick from the left curled beyond the wall but couldn’t beat the upright, the defense clearing once again.
Tanzania didn’t have many chances but the two they had were close ones. In the 55th minute Simon Msuva tried to catch the keeper off his line with a crafty shot from distance, but it went wide.
Three minutes later, the striker once again tried his luck after a quick interchange of passes with skipper Mbwana Samatta, but his eventual shot came off the outside of the post.
On the other end, Equatorial Guinea continued attacking and Manula once again made decisive saved, denying skipper Lopez in two quick instances. In the 58th minute, he did well to turn the skipper’s bouncing header behind for a corner.
Two minutes later, the shot stopper made a good reflex save to tip over Lopez’s connection after he directed Dicombo’s freekick goalward with his thigh.
The home side piled the pressure, winning set piece after set piece, all in a bid to get themselves into qualification.
They finally nailed that one goal in the 89th minute when skipper Lopez controlled a cross from the left inside the box before firing past Manula, finally breaking his rear.
The home side would have doubled their lead in added time, but Manula denied them with a good save off Ruben Belima’s shot.