Bata – Gabon’s Pierre-Emerick put aside the trauma of his last Africa Cup of Nations finals appearance with the first goal in a 2-0 win over Burkina Faso in their Group A opener on Saturday.
The French-born striker, who missed the decisive penalty in a quarter-final shootout against Mali three years ago when Gabon co-hosted the tournament, opened the scoring in the 19th minute.
It was a classic poacher’s goal as he found his way blocked but steadied himself at the second attempt before blasting home at the Estadio de Bata.
A close-range header from Malick Evouna in the 72nd minute wrapped up the victory that puts Gabon top of the section after the first day of the tournament following a 1-1 draw between hosts Equatorial Guinea and Congo in the opening match.
He might have had a second with 20 minutes remaining as a dangerous reminder of his speed saw the Borussia Dortmund forward burst away on the left wing only to hit his shot narrowly wide with the ball swinging across the goal.
But soon after Evouna wrapped up a hard-fought win when he rose amongst the Burkinabe defenders to head home Frederic Bulot’s cross.
Burkina Faso, who were runners-up at the last finals, looked the classier of the two teams, getting behind the Gabon defence to set up several chances, but over-elaborated when a simpler approach could have paid dividends.
Jonathan Pitroipa, voted best player at the last Nations Cup, hit his 30th minute effort straight at Gabon goalkeeper Didier Ovono, who earlier made a fine save from Bertrand Traore.
Chelsea teenager Traore, on loan at Vitesse Arnhem in the Dutch league, made an exciting combination with elder brother Alain in attack but they were let down by their final touch.
Gabon could have increased their lead at least twice at crucial junctures over the game.
In the first half Didier Ndong was clear but fluffed his chance and midway through the second half Bulot managed to shoot straight at goalkeeper Moussa Fofana from in front of goal.
FOLLOW NEW AFRICA BUSINESS NEWS ON FACEBOOK @ New Africa Business News.com