CAPE TOWN – Cameroon’s Indomitable Lions timed their victory burst to perfection as they triumphed 2-1 winners over seven-time winners Egypt in the 2017 Afcon final at the Stade de l’Amitié, Libreville, Gabon, on Sunday night.
Cameroon one of the lesser fancied teams at the event pulled off a remarkable come-from-behind win after Egypt’s Pharaohs held a 1-0 halftime lead to claim a fifth Afcon title. The match a repeat of the 2008 final which Egypt won.
Both sets of defences were caught napping on the opening four minutes but were let off the hook as the goalkeepers at either end rose to the occasion. Cameroon Fabrice Ondoa was first to spring into action when he held on to a stinging low drive from Egypt’s Abdallah El-Said.
Two minutes later, the 44-year-old Egypt goalkeeper Essam El Hadary gathered a tame shot from Cameroon’s Sébastien Siani who was left unmarked on the fringe of the central penalty area.
Cameroon were the quicker to strike up cohesion in the ensuing minutes and they looked particularly penetrative down the right flank although they failed to set-up threatening situations in the opposition goalmouth. Christian Bassogog was putting in a workmanlike performance for Cameroon in Egypt’s half but his teammates failed to build on his endeavours.
Once Egypt’s defence calmly dealt with the pressure they sprung a breakout down the right channels which Cameroon were hard-pressed to contain and duly paid the penalty in the 22nd minute. Some smart inter-play among Egypt’s front-runners proved a tad too much for the hesitant Cameroon defence and Mohamed Elneny took his chances from an acute angle by rifling the ball into the roof of the net past the near post (1-0).
The goal came somewhat against the run of play as Cameroon had camped in Egypt’s half for a 12-minute passage of play but once Egypt reversed the flow of play with a counter-attack they were rudely surprised.
The goal seemed help Egypt maintain their shape and Cameroon battled to prise open the miserly opposition defence which had only conceded goal coming into the final.
Cameroon suffered a further setback on the half-hour mark when their centre-back Adolphe Teikeu went down with an injury which forced him to retire prematurely from the final. Substitute Nicolas N’Koulou was called up to join the fray.
In the 34th minute, Bassogog continued to ask questions of the Egypt’s defence as Cameroon for once threatened to exploit their decided possession advantage. However, his parting shot sailed over the crossbar as Egypt’s defence appeared to be in disarray.
As the first half wound its course towards the end, there were half-chances at either end but Egypt’s slender 1-0 lead remained intact by the time the first half came to an end.
The early second-half play was almost solely confined to the Egyptian half as Cameroon set off on a wave of attacks which earned them two corners in a frenetic 12-minute spell. However, Cameroon’s scoring efforts lacked the finishing touch to inflict damage, until substitute centre-back N’Koulou intervened with telling impact in the 59th minute.
N’Koulou stalked into the firing line as Benjamin Moukandjo floated in a goalmouth cross from the left. With a great sense of anticipation, N’Koulou rose head and shoulders above the central defence to send a glancing header into Egypt’s goals for the equaliser (1-1).
It was evident that the advance had injected loads on confidence into the ranks of Cameroon’s Indomitable Lions and in the 67th minute, their pressure earned them a fourth corner in the match. N’Koulou again imposed himself on the set-piece but this time his header missed the target as Egypt’s defence looked more vulnerable than ever.
As the match approached the 80th-minute mark, both Jacques Zoua and Moukandjo, rather sluggishly, hashed gilt-edged scoring chances for Cameroon who by this time had done enough to settle the destiny of the 2017 Afcon title.
Their dismal efforts in front of goal seemed to point to the match going into extra time to undo the stalemate but Cameroon’s perseverance produced a telling moment three minutes from the end. Substitute Paté Aboubakar latched on to long upfield kick by Siani into Egypt’s goalmouth and he turned his marker inside out to score the match decider.
– African News Agency (ANA)