DR Congo beat Guinea 5-4 on penalty kicks to reach the final of the African Nations Championship (CHAN) for the second time on Wednesday in Kigali.
The Congolese, winners of the inaugural edition in 2009 at Cote D’Ivoire, seemed headed for victory after TP Mazembe forward Jonathan Bolingi headed them into the lead in extra time.
But Guinea drew level with virtually the last kick of the game’s open play through Ibrahima Sankhon.
They Congolese then had to sweat for the victory against a determined Guinean side which had held them goalless in regulation time.
The match had got off to an electrifying start with DR Congo taking control from the start.
Most of the action was played in the half of the Guineans, while DR Congo captain Joel Kimwaki thwarted the few rare attacks by the West African side.
Forward Bolingi was heavily policed by the Guinean backline of Mohamed Youla and Abuobacar Camara, but still managed to lay some good passes to Mechak Elia and Doxa Gikanji.
Gikanji on two occasions struck shots which missed narrowly, letting the Guineans off the hook.
The last five minutes of the first half belonged to the Syli Nationale and Sanknon forced a good save from DR Congo goalkeeper Ley Matampi.
He had spilled his thunderbolt-like shot from a free-kick just before the break.
The second half was balanced with both teams starting on a positive footing with possession switching intermittently for either side.
The best chance of the game came the way of the 2009 champions three minutes from time.
This was when Gikanji’s shot from close range ricocheted off the crossbar with Guinea goalkeeper AbdoulAziz Keita beaten.
Just as the first half, Guinea were the better side in the closing stages.
But their attempts at goal were foiled by the Congolese backline, forcing the game into extra time.
Twelve minutes into extra time, Bolingi shot the Leopards into the lead by heading home substitute Guy Lusadisu’s cross past a hapless Keita.
The Congolese held on and just on the stroke of time, Guinea replied with the equaliser through Sankhon who blasted home a shot which left Matampi with no option.
During the penalty shootout, Matampi saved the decisive kick from Youla as the Congolese reached the final for the second time.
Kimwaki, Michel Mika, Bolingi, Gikanji and Elia scored for the Congolese, while Sankhon, Aboubacar Camara, Aboubacar Bangoura and Daouda Camara converted for the Guineans.
DR Congo will now play winners of the Cote D’Ivoire versus Mali fixture in Sunday’s final, while Guinea square up against the losers in the battle for the bronze medals.
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