Cameroon score late to draw Mali in Cup of Nations opener
Volker Finke’s new-look Cameroon side needed a late equalizer to escape with a 1-1 draw from their African Nations Cup opener against Mali.
Mali led through Sambou Yatabare’s 71st-minute goal but New York Red Bulls full-back Ambroise Oyongo hit back for the Indomitable Lions.
Yatabare thought he had won it in stoppage time but his header was correctly disallowed for offside.
Finke has purged the Cameroon squad of many of the central figures from last summer’s abysmal World Cup showing, opting instead for an injection of youth.
The German was without suspended captain Stephane Mbia for this game and surprisingly left Lyon forward Clinton Njie on the bench throughout.
Bakary Sako’s saw two early crosses cleared by Cameroon’s Nicolas Nkoulou before drawing a sharp save from Fabrice Ondoa after a one-two with Adama Tamboura. The winger’s cross was then headed wide by Mustapha Yatabare with the goal gaping.
Cameroon suffered several early injury problems, with Henri Bedimo and Vincent Aboubakar both needing treatment while Eyong Enoh was forced off after 16 minutes and replaced by Franck Kom.
But they threatened for the first time when Eric Choupo-Moting’s header was tipped over by Soumbeyla Diakite. The Schalke forward then slashed wide from distance.
A Mali break ended with Sako firing at the near post when he maybe should have crossed – Ondoa blocked the effort.
Benjamin Moukandjo headed Edgar Salli’s free-kick wide for Cameroon as the half ended goalless.
In a low-key opening to the second period, Aurelien Chedjou swung a Cameroon free-kick wastefully over the crossbar and Moukandjo fired across goal.
In between times, Mali will feel they should have had a penalty when Sako appeared to be caught in the box.
Oyongo charged down Mustapha Yatabare’s shot but Sambou Yatabare soon gave Mali the lead.
After winning a free-kick on the left, the Guingamp midfielder waited patiently for Seydou Keita’s delivery to drift across the penalty area and drilled a low angled shot through Ondoa’s legs.
Substitute Kom suffered the fate of being substituted himself, Franck Etoundi taking his place, before Cameroon finally equalized.
Raoul Loe lofted a long ball into the box and Oyongo’s run went unchecked as he took two touches before calmly slotting home his first international goal.
It was almost in vain as Ondoa fumbled Keita’s free-kick straight to Sambou Yatabare, but the assistant referee had done well to spot the latter moving too soon and the raised flag meant a fifth 1-1 draw in the eight games so far in the tournament.