Two first half penalties from Vincent Aboubakar helped the Indomitable Lions come from a goal down to beat the Stallions of Burkina Faso.
Two foolish challenges from captain Bertrand Traore and Issoufou Dayo gave the Lions the fillip to come back and win the first match of the 33rd Africa cup of Nations Cup tournament that kicked off on Sunday in Yaounde, Cameroon.
Cameroon kicked off with about 30,000 people in the stadium because of COVID-19 regulations and the hosts started on the front foot with the Stallions looking jittery. The first yellow card was shown by Algerian referee Mustapha Ghorbal after 40 seconds to Steeve Yago for a two-footed challenge on Collins Fai.
Vincent Aboubakar produced the first incisive attacking move after eight minutes but after stepping away from two Burkinabe defenders, he fired over the bar. After 10 minutes of action, Karl Toko Ekanbi went round the Burkina Faso goalkeeper but then rushed his effort on goal and it was high and wide.
Two successive fouls by Samuel Gouet on Traore near the centre circle showed the Lions recognise the potency of Traore as the Stallions’ talisman. Nicolas Ngamaleu was the livewire for the Lions as he was always eager to run the channels to create offensive opportunities for his team.
In the 17th minute, Andre Onana had to rush out to clear the danger but he caught Cyrille Bayala in the follow-through. Tapsoba had a chance to run at the Cameroonian goal in the 22nd minute but he lost steam but won a corner
The Lions goal was playing a charmed life after a succession of crosses and a goal-bound header was cleared off the line in the 23rd minute. Gustavo Sangare volleyed home the first goal of the 33rd AFCON after Onana misjudged Traore’s cross and crashed into another Burkina Faso player.
The second yellow card of the tournament was shown to Burkina Faso defender Patrick Malo for an aggressive tackle in the 31st minute but another poor delivery saw the ball knocked out for a corner.
Nouhou Tolo added some speed and urgency from the left to win another corner and VAR had to check the rash body charge by Traore on Anguissa. The referee went to the monitor and whistled for a penalty.
Aboubakar sent Herve Koffi the wrong way to hand the Lions the equaliser. Not entirely merited but the hosts took the lifeline. Cameroon defender, Jerome Onguene, was then shown a yellow card for an off-the-ball elbow on Sangare.
The Lions were awarded another penalty after Dayo upended Tolo with the ball long gone from the rampaging left-back. Aboubakar stepped up again and stroked the ball down the middle with Koffi going the wrong way again.
The second half came alive after 54 minutes when Traore’s freekick was cleared off the line. Four minutes later, Aboubakar thought he had his hat trick with a rebound after a lightning-fast counter was launched by the Cameroonian captain. VAR took almost three minutes to check and made the decision for no goal.
Anguissa had a shot blocked for a corner kick in the 74th minute and Aboubakar shot high and wide with a shooting chance three minutes later as the Lions pushed to kill off the match. A raft of changes from both sides added more energy as the Stallions chased an equaliser while the Lions looked for a third goal.
Five minutes were added on but Burkina Faso were left to shoot from a distance to try and beat Onana. Tolo had the last scoring opportunity after another counterattack but his first-time volley went wide.
A very physical contest was determined by two naive defensive blunders by two of Burkina Faso’s more experienced international players while Cameroon was helped by the nerveless penalty taking from Aboubakar, whose goal won the Lions the 2017 title against Egypt.
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