Forget five-goal snooze-fests – Angola and Mauritania served up a surprise Afcon thriller, with Gelson Dala’s brace pushing the Palancas Negra within a whisker of the last 16.
Dala pounced on a corner rebound to smash the opener against the turf and into the net, but Mauritania’s Sidi Amar stole the show just before halftime with a dazzling run and emphatic finish.
The second half belonged to Angola, though. Dala doubled his tally with a well-placed strike, and Gilberto tucked away a neat cutback to open a 3-1 lead. Aboubakary Koita provided a consolation for Mauritania with a world-class thunderbolt from afar.
The result guarantees Angola a place in the knockout stages with a draw against Burkina Faso in their final group game. Mauritania, with just one point, need a win against Mali while hoping for favorable results elsewhere to keep their Afcon dream alive.
This clash defied expectations. Mauritania, barren in their last six Afcon matches, and Angola, with just seven goals in their last 10 group stages appearances, traded stunning blows in a rare gem of the tournament.
It was a close-fought first half, with Mabululu forcing a Babacar Niasse save and Pape Ibnou Ba nearly putting Mauritania ahead before Dala’s opener. Sidi Amar’s equaliser was a moment of individual brilliance, leaving defenders in his wake before slamming the ball home.
Angola were unlucky not to restore their lead before the break, with Gilberto somehow ballooning a golden chance over the bar. But the second half belonged to the Palancas. Dala’s quickfire second and Gilberto’s composed finish put them in control, leaving Koita’s late screamer as a mere consolation for Mauritania.
Angola can smell the last 16, while Mauritania’s Afcon adventure hangs by a thread. But regardless of the outcome, their clash will be remembered as one of the most unexpectedly entertaining displays of the tournament.