JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - Burundi qualified for the African Cup of Nations finals for the first time as they kept Gabon striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang in check to get the point they needed in a 1-1 draw on Saturday.
The result secured them second place in Group C to join Madagascar and Mauritania as countries going to the finals for the first time and their achievement sparked wild celebrations in the tiny east African country.
While Burundi needed only to draw, visitors Gabon, who hosted the last finals in 2017, had to win in Bujumbura to join group winners Mali in the expanded 24-team finals in Egypt in June and July.
Burundi were kept at bay repeatedly throughout the match by the heroics of Gabon’s veteran goalkeeper Didier Ovono before Cedric Amissi finally broke the deadlock in the 75th minute.
Yet celebrations were kept on hold until the final whistle as Gabon equalised with eight minutes to go when Burundi defender Omar Ngandu turned the ball into his own net.
Gabon’s Arsenal striker Aubameyang had a largely quiet afternoon and they were unable to get the second goal they needed to reach the finals instead.
Defending champions Cameroon, who were originally named hosts of the 2019 finals before the tournament was moved to Egypt amid concerns over stagnating preparations, completed their qualification campaign with a 3-0 win over Comoros.
The Indomitable Lions had already sealed their place at the finals ahead of the match but finished their Group B campaign with a comfortable victory as Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting, Christian Bassogog and Clinton N’Jie netted in Yaounde.
Reporting By Mark Gleeson and Nick Said; Editing by Toby Davis