Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang played a starring role as co-hosts Gabon got their
African Nations Cup campaign off to a winning start with a comfortable victory
over tournament debutants Niger in Libreville.
Aubameyang was a major threat to the Niger defence and he opened the scoring in
the 30th minute before then playing a key part in the build-up to Gabon's second
goal on the stroke of half-time, scored by Stephane N'Guema.
The victory put Gabon top of the Pool C standings ahead of the Morocco-Tunisia
match later this evening.
Gabon were quickly on the front foot and, after forcing a number of early
corners, they came close to taking the lead through Aubameyang in the 18th
Edmond Mouele's cross from the right wing took a deflection off a Niger
defender that allowed it to fall perfectly for the unmarked Aubameyang at the
far post but, after bringing the ball down, the St Etienne striker was denied by
a good block by Niger goalkeeper Kassaly Daouda.
Aubameyang made no mistake with a similar opportunity 12 minutes later though
to put Gabon ahead.
Daouda desperately scrambled across his goal to try to cut out another looping
cross from the right, this time from N'Guema, but he was just unable to reach
the ball and the 22-year-old Aubameyang was on hand to head in at the far post.
Niger, who caused a huge shock when they finished above three-time reigning
champions Egypt and South Africa in qualifying, enjoyed a rare attack in the
42nd minute when Alhassane Issoufou and Boubacar Talatou saw close-range efforts
blocked following a corner, but they found themselves 2-0 down three minutes
Eric Mouloungui did superbly to win back possession before laying the ball off
to Charly Moussono, whose cross looked set to result in Aubameyang's second goal
as the 22-year-old launched himself at the ball to power a header goalward.
He was denied by a brilliant save by Daouda, but from the follow-up N'Guema
slotted into an empty net.
That proved to be the end of the scoring as Gabon held onto their advantage
relatively comfortably in the second half, although they did need a brilliant
diving save from Didier Ovono Ebang to keep out Boubacar Issoufou's 78th-minute
Gabon might also have increased their lead late but, after defensive error,
Aubameyang fired just wide from the edge of the box while Daniel Cousin saw a
dipping shot go just over.