Democratic Republic of Congo shot top of Group C following a 1-0 win over Morocco at the Stade d’Oyem in the Gabonese city of Oyem on Monday evening.
Junior Kabananga’s second-half strike secured a narrow with for the Leopards who successfully survived a late onslaught from the North Africans – playing with 10 men for the final nine minutes – to secure all three points.
Joyce Lomalisa Mutambala received his marching orders in the 81st minute of the clash following a second bookable offence.
Morocco almost opened the scoring with their first chance of the match, but Mbark Boussoufa smashed his attempt off the crossbar with two minutes on the clock.
At the other end of the park Chancel Mbemba found himself in an unfamiliar position high up the field. The Newcastle United man, though, fancied his chances but saw his resulting shot in the 28th minute fly narrowly wide of goal.
But without arguably their most creative players in Yannick Bolasie and Sofiane Boufal missing due to respective injuries, both DR Congo and Morocco struggled in the final third as the half ended goalless.
The only goal of the game would follow 10 minutes after the restart with Kabananga hammering home a left-footed shot following a mistake by Munir Mohand.