CAF Africa Cup of Naitons co-hosts Equatorial Guinea secured themselves the best possible start to the tournament as Javier Balboa earned them victory in today's opening game. The midfielder grabbed the only goal in the 87th minute as the National Lightning secured the reward offered by the son of long-standing president Teodoro Obiang Nguema.
It was no less than they deserved after having the better of the game, particularly in a lively first half. Libya's Walid El Khatroushi and Jamal Mohamed were both just unable to carve out early chances while the co-hosts' first attack centred around great work by Iban Iyanga Randy, but Ivan Bolado was kept at bay by Younes Shibani.
Balboa's weak long-range shot then almost squirmed away from keeper Samir Abod - who had a huge let-off moments later. Juvenal Edjogo's shot was deflected onto the post and Bolado's follow-up was fumbled through his legs and over the line by Abod, whose blushes were spared by an offside flag against Thierry Fidjeu. Abod then had to snatch the ball after Ali Salama deflected Iyanga's cross towards his own goal and Juvenal sliced wide after Shibani cut out Balboa's cross.
Walid gave Equatorial Guinea keeper Danilo his first test early in the second half before Fidjeu was off target with an acrobatic effort at the other end. Libya substitute Ihab Al Busaifi warmed Danilo's palms with a fierce drive but there was otherwise little in the way of goalmouth action - at least until Abod dived to turn away Mohammad Doe's ferocious free-kick in the 72nd minute.
Equatorial Guinea's regular captain, Deportivo La Coruna striker Rodolfo Bodipo, had been restricted to a substitute's role by injury and, ten minutes after replacing Fidjeu, damaged his Achilles tendon and gave way to Daniel Ekedo. But the co-hosts snatched victory with three minutes remaining when Balboa just beat the offside trap to race onto Ekedo's pass and lift the ball over Abod.
Libya responded and Mohamed forced a diving save from Danilo, but Amia Ekanga then lashed a superb effort against Abod's crossbar. Abdala Al Sherif was booked in stoppage time for diving in Equatorial Guinea's penalty area in a desperate attempt to win a spot-kick, and an equaliser could not be found.