World: Africa Cup of Nations
0 - 1
(0 - 0)
Equatorial Guinea
Bikoro (55), X Nsue (69)
M. Bayo (90)
By Peter Weis@PeterVicey

Guirassy and Guinea punch ticket to AFCON quarterfinals

Three Bundesliga professionals representing Guinea's "Syli National" are off the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations quarterfinals after eking out a narrow victory against Equatorial Guinea in the tournament's Round-of-16.
Advancing out of group stage play in second place, Kaba Diawara's Guinean "Syli National" faced Group A winners Equatorial Guinea in their first knockout round stage tie of the tournament on Sunday evening. The Guineans by no means faced an easy task. Their opponents delivered the most shocking upset win over a hosting nation in the entire history of the competition with a 4-0 blanking of Cote d'Ivoire in their final group stage match.

Diawara employed wholesale changes to his team after they lost their final group stage fixture. VfB Stuttgart striker Serhou Guirassy and SV Werder Bremen attacking midfielder Naby Keïta - both of whom started in the previous defeat - both moved to the bench. RB Leipzig loan-out Ilaix Moriba wasn't even in the match-day squad after starting for Diawara from the first group stage match through the third.

Neither West African nation found it prudent to take too many risks in the first half. As a result, only five totally harmless efforts on target were supplied in a sleepy opening 45. Action picked up after the restart. The two nations traded goals each disallowed for offside. The Equatorial Guineans were reduced to ten men in the 55th when midfielder Federico Bikoro was shown a straight red.

Despite being shorthanded, the "National Thunder" were gifted a chance to take the lead from the penalty spot in the 55th. Lead striker Emilio Nsue nevertheless hit the post and the match remained goalless. Guirassy was introduced at the hour mark. German club colleague Keïta followed up 19 minutes later. Neither Bundesliga professional had much of an impact on the match. Keïta remained more active on the ball.

Just when it appeared as if extra time could not be avoided, Guinean striker Mohamed Bayo sent the supporters who came to cheer their team on into ecstasy with a splendid headed finish on the 1-0 at 90+8. Guirassy did manage to get three efforts off and impressively won all three of his aerial duels. Keïta racked up 17 touches and connected with 12 passes (both higher stats than Guirassy) despite having a much shorter shift.

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