UPDATE 1-Soccer-Aubameyang fires co-hosts Gabon to opening win
*Aubameyang scores first and sets up second
*Winning start for under-pressure co-hosts
By Mark Gleeson
LIBREVILLE, Jan 23 (Reuters) - Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang lived up to his growing reputation by inspiring co-hosts Gabon to a comfortable 2-0 win over debutants Niger in their opening African Nations Cup Group C match on Monday.
The 22-year-son of a former national team captain delivered a stellar performance in attack to help provide the perfect start to the tournament for the Gabonese who are co-hosting the 16-team event with neighbours Equatorial Guinea.
"The pressure was intense but we came through it," said a smiling coach Gernot Rohr. "We played very competitively and it's a really good beginning."
After a quiet start to the game, Aubameyang brought the 40,000 spectators to their feet when he ghosted in at the back post to squeeze home a header and put his team ahead just as they were becoming frustrated by their unfancied opponents.
A diving header from the St Etienne striker on the stroke of halftime set up the second goal. Niger goalkeeper Daouda Kassaly made a brilliant save to stop Aubameyang's effort but the rebound fell perfectly for Stephane Nguema to net from close range.
Aubameyang was also a central figure in the goalless second half, orchestrating a wave of attacks, taking set pieces and generally keeping Niger on the back foot until he was replaced late on by veteran Daniel Cousin.
Poor defence from Niger contributed to the ease with which Gabon passed the ball around as the Nations Cup new boys looked out of their depth.
Niger threatened rarely and were poorly organised, even after calling in former Olympique Marseille coach Rolland Courbis to help with the preparations.
They also played the last 15 minutes with 10 men when Moutari Amadou was carried off on a stretcher having already made their three substitutions.
Former winners Morocco and Tunisia meet later on Monday in the newly-built stadium on the outskirts of the Gabon capital. (Editing by Ed Osmond and Pritha Sarkar)
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