The African Cup of Nations finals roared to life yesterday in Bata, and what a way to open the 2012 finals for the hosts, who endured coming close to scoring on many occasions before former Real Madrid man Javier Balboa gave co-hosts Equatorial Guinea a 1-0 victory over Libya in the 87th minute.
Following a spectacular opening attended by many dignitaries including the nation's President Obiang Nguema, the co-hosts assumed control of things after five to ten minutes.
In the 16th minute, Ivan Bolado thought he had put E.Guinea ahead,only for his effort to be incorrectly ruled off-side by the near side assistant referee. Captain Juvenal flighted a cross from the left and it crashed against the upright pole.
Thierry Fidjeu who never interfered with play was adjudged to have been off-side when Bolado who scored was clearly on-side. With the benefit of hindsight, the referee will realise that he could have spoiled an otherwise good opening match with that poor decision.
Libya, who qualified for the finals against all odds, returned from the break a more purposeful team. Striker Ahmed Zuway and midfielder Walid El Khatroushi (who fought on the side of rebels against slain former dictator Muammar Gadaffi) did much work for the Libyans.
E.Guinea again wrestled control away from the North Africans.
Gilson Paulo made effective substitutions in the second half.
The hosts looked threatening on counter attacks with Juvenal Adjogo and Balboa causing all sorts of trouble for the Libyan defence.
With the match looking poised for a disappointing draw, substitute Nigerian-born Daniel-Bladimiar Ekedo made a brilliant contribution just moments after coming on. He received a pass outside the box, and superbly threaded a ball for Balboa who made no mistake to find the winner.
The stadium in Bata erupted after the much-awaited goal and the National Lightning now stand to benefit from the promised $1million dollars, offered by President Nguema's son for a victory.
E.Guinea's victory could have came at a price though. Regular captain Rodolfo Bodipo's injury which restricted him to an appearance from the bench in this match was exarcebated during the match and he appears to be going to miss the rest of the tournament.