African Cup of Nations - Balboa earns Equatorial Guinea victory
A late goal from Javier Balboa gave co-hosts Equatorial Guinea a 1-0 win over Libya in the opening match of the African Cup of Nations.
The Spanish-born attacker ran onto Daniel-Bladimir Ekedo's 87th minute slide-rule pass and dispatched the ball confidently beyond goalkeeper Samir Aboud to the delight of a sell-out stadium in this Group A clash.
The team will share a $1 million bonus thanks to the win, plus $20,000 for the goal they scored, if the country's leader Teodoro Obiang Nguema makes good on a pre-tournament promise.
Much has been made of Equatorial Guinea's fielding of naturalised players and they started with five against Libya: Danilo (Brazil), Fousseny Kamisoko and Ben Konate (both Ivorian), Thierry Fidjeu (Cameroon) and Lawrence Doe (Liberia). Juvenal was named as captain, with Rodolfo Bodipo starting on the bench.
Libya had no injury problems and were able to field their strongest side.
Libya started the stronger and enjoyed much of the early possession before Equatorial Guinea began to assert their authority on the game.
Randy cleverly manoeuvred his way into the penalty area and found Ivan Bolado who was dispossessed by Younes Shibani as he prepared to get his shot away.
Balboa then saw a low effort pushed away by Aboud.
Libya goalkeeper Aboud was fortunate that his mistake on 16 minutes did not result in his side falling behind.
Spanish-born midfielder Juvenal's deflected shot hit the post and Aboud allowed Bolado's shot to squirm under him and over the line but the goal was ruled out for offside as Thierry Fidjeu was deemed to be interfering with play after making a move towards the ball.
Kamisoko headed a Juvenal corner into the side-netting as the co-hosts dominated, while a Balboa shot across goal rolled a couple of yards wide.
The four Equatorial Guinea attacking players were presenting the Libya defence with a multitude of problems but the Mediterranean Knights reached halftime on level terms.
The second-half was a tame affair in comparison, although Libya substitute Ihab almost made an instant impact with a well-struck effort from distance which Danilo held onto.
At the other end Bolado surged into the box but his cross could not reach Randy, and Balboa's shot was blocked in a rare second-half attack from the co-hosts.
Doe forced a spectacular save out of Aboud after a bullet of a free-kick in the 72nd minute. The Libya captain dived to his right to keep out the goalbound effort.
Equatorial Guinea finished the match on the front foot and just about deserved their 87th minute winner.
Balboa broke the offside trap and curled high into the net beyond Aboud after running onto Ekedo's well-weighted pass.
Mohamed Djamal almost responded instantly for Libya in a thrilling finale as his fierce shot was pushed behind by Danilo.
Then soon after the co-hosts nearly made the game safe in injury time with Ekanga smashing a shot against the top of the bar.
The final whistle was greeted with unbridled joy as Equatorial Guinea's fanatical support celebrated a first ever victory at an Africa Cup of Nations finals.