PORT ELIZABETH, South Africa: Favoured Ghana were held to a 2-2 draw by fighting DR Congo yesterday in the opening Group B match at the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations.
Later in the day, Seydou Keita proved to be the talisman for Mali again with a late winner as they emerged the first victors in the tournament, beating Niger 1-0 also in Group B.
The captain took advantage of a slip by Niger's goalkeeper Daouda Kassaly, who spilled a cross from Fousseiny Diawara right at Keita's feet and he swept it into the net in the 84th minute at Port Elizabeth's Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium.
The Congolese Leopards, who have been embroiled in squabbles over bonuses ahead of the match, showed great character to come from two goals down and take a point.
Emmanuel Agyeman Badu gave the Black Stars the lead, and scored the first goal of this tournament, in the 40th minute when he tapped home after a well-worked move involving Kwadwo Asamoah.
Juventus star Asamoah doubled Ghana's lead four minutes after half-time when he headed home a corner taken by Mubarak Wakaso.
Skipper Tresor Mputu pulled a goal back for the Congolese in the 53rd minute after being put through by Cedric Makiadi.
Dieumerci Mbokani drew the Congolese level in the 68th minute by converting a penalty kick after he was fouled by Jerry Akaminko.
"This match was a great advertisement for African football," said DR Congo coach Claude le Roy.
"I'm proud of my players. They have great quality and they showed it by coming back to a high-level competition like the Africa Cup after a seven-year absence. We deserved this result after all the problems we had and I hope that it will get the whole country behind the team now."
Ghana coach Kwesi Appiah said: "I knew this match would not be easy, but it was unfortunate we did not win our first game. We relaxed and we suffered from some tactical indiscipline which we must correct in our next game."
The small, noisy crowd at the 45,000-seat Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium were treated to an open, entertaining match.