Ushindi strikes to settle CHAN clash of the Congos

Douala (AFP) –


Clinical Chico Ushindi scored just after half-time to give the Democratic Republic of Congo a 1-0 win over Congo Brazzaville Sunday and the lead in Group B of the African Nations Championship (CHAN).

Chasing a record-extending third title in the tournament for home-based footballers, the Leopards top the table with three points, Libya and Niger have one each and Congo none.

When a Congo Brazzaville defender failed to cut off a low cross on 47 minutes, Ushindi struck a left-foot shot across goalkeeper Pavelh Ndzila into the far corner of the net.

DR Congo should have won the clash of central African neighbours more convincingly having dominated possession and territory at Stade Japoma in the Cameroonian economic capital, Douala.

It was the first meeting of the Congos at a Nations Championship tournament after six matches between them in qualifying competitions with honours even at two victories each.

Florent Ibenge coached DR Congo when they last triumphed, in 2016, and was recently recalled for the sixth edition, where they, defending champions Morocco and hosts Cameroon are among the title favourites.

In the first match of a double-header, former champions Libya were lucky to escape with a 0-0 draw against Niger.

The west Africans controlled the second half, spending long periods in the Libyan half, but could not find a way past goalkeeper Ahmed Azzaqa.

Ibrahim Boubacar came close to breaking the deadlock on 68 minutes when he broke through only to see his lob over the shot-stopper clear the crossbar.

It was the first competitive match as Libya coach for Montenegrin Zoran Filipovic, who took charge after Ali el Margini quit last November having lost all three matches while in charge.

Libya are the CHAN draw specialists, being involved in 10 stalemates since debuting in 2009 and winning the competition five years later despite five consecutive draws.

The Mediterranean Knights sprung the biggest surprise of the five previous editions by lifting the trophy in 2014 by defeating Ghana on penalties.

Morocco, who trounced Nigeria 4-0 to become 2018 champions, begin their Group C campaign Monday against Togo at another Douala venue, the refurbished Stade Reunification.

Togo have been rocked by the deaths of two stars -- Kossi Koudagba from malaria and Toyi Awi after collapsing clutching his chest -- in the build-up to their CHAN tournament debut.