In a heart-stopping finale worthy of a Nollywood script, Mohamed Bayo rose to the occasion in the eighth minute of stoppage time, heading home a dramatic winner to send Guinea into the Africa Cup of Nations quarterfinals with a 1-0 victory over 10-man Equatorial Guinea on Sunday.
Just when extra time seemed inevitable, substitute Ibrahim Diakité delivered a pinpoint cross, finding Bayo unmarked at the near post. The striker made no mistake, guiding the ball past a despairing Jesús Owono for a goal that sent the Ivorian crowd into delirium.
The win provided sweet revenge for Guinea’s fans, still smarting from Equatorial Guinea’s stunning 4-0 upset of host nation Ivory Coast in the group stage. It also capped a game of few clear-cut chances, with the goal drought broken only in the most dramatic fashion.
Equatorial Guinea, buoyed by their underdog status and fueled by a passionate performance, almost wrote another fairytale. They started brightly and nearly silenced the Abidjan crowd when tournament top scorer Emilio Nsue won a penalty midway through the second half.
However, Nsue’s usually reliable foot faltered, as his spot-kick cannoned off the right post, summing up his side’s frustrating lack of clinical finishing throughout the match.
To add to their woes, Federico Bikoro received a second yellow card just ten minutes after the penalty miss, leaving Equatorial Guinea to battle valiantly with one man down. Despite their numerical disadvantage, they held firm until the final seconds, only to be undone by Bayo’s late heroics.
Equatorial Guinea’s giant-killing run comes to an end, but they leave the tournament with their heads held high, having stunned the continent with their fearless approach and passionate displays.