Prolific forward Junior Kabananga made it three from three in the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations as DR Congo beat Togo 3-1 to progress to the quarter-finals as Group C winners.
The Astana man scored the only goal in DR Congo’s opening 1-0 win over Morocco and was also on target during the entertaining 2-2 draw four days ago with Ivory Coast – the reigning champions who now depart the tournament winless.
Kabananga produced an assured finish before the half hour to set DR Congo on their way and Ndombe Mubele doubled the advantage early in the second period, by which point a gulf in class was apparent.
Kodjo Fo-Doh Laba pulled one back in the 69th minute but another substitute, Paul-Jose Mpoku put the result beyond doubt with a free-kick 10 minutes from time.
DR Congo will play whoever finishes second in Group D on Wednesday, with Ghana, Egypt and Mali all possible opponents, after their victory in Port-Gentil ensured they beat Morocco to top spot despite the north Africans sending Ivory Coast packing.
As suggested before the match, Togo’s veteran former two-time DR Congo coach Claude Le Roy stood down Kossi Agassa after the goalkeeper’s home was vandalised by fans in the aftermath of his errors in the 3-1 defeat to Morocco.
His replacement, Baba Tchagouni, is without a professional club – much like Togo captain Emmanuel Adebayor.
The former Arsenal striker made light of the impact his inactivity might have on the eve of the match, boasting of having “golden genes” in an interview with FIFA.
Having just failed to connect with a third-minute cross, the 32-year-old looked to put his words into practice with a couple of buccaneering runs from deep.
Tchagouni jarred his left knee thwarting DR Congo’s first attack and eventually left the field in anguish, with third-choice goalkeeper Cedric Mensah introduced.
Mensah’s first task was to pick the ball out of his net in the 29th minute, as Kabananga outmuscled Serge Gakpe to get on the end of Chancel Mbemba’s probing throughball and clip across the keeper into the bottom corner.
Kabananga almost had his fourth of the tournament a minute before the interval when his glancing header from Neeskens Kebano’s left-wing corner corner looped against the inside of the far post.
The second goal arrived eight minutes into the second half when Mensah’s long clearance was volleyed back towards the Togo penalty area by Marcel Tisserand.
Djene Dakonam was guilty of playing Mubele onside and he retrieved the loose ball and lifted a finish over Mensah.
Le Roy introduced Laba in the 67th minute and he had an almost instant impact, picking out the bottom-right corner after some one-touch combination play from Adebayor and Floyd Ayite.
Adebayor then shot at Ley Matampi in the DR Congo goal as Togo sensed an improbable comeback but that was snuffed out as Mpoku crashed home off the underside of the bar.
That sparked familiar choreographed group celebrations among his jubilant team-mates, who then gave Adebayor a guard of honour after the final whistle seemingly brought down the curtain on his top-level international career.
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