Cameroon progressed to the quarter-finals of the Africa Cup of Nations with a 2-1 win against 10-man Comoros, despite a courageous performance from their depleted opponents.
The big news before the game was that Comoros would have to start an outfield player in goal, with first-choice goalkeeper Salim Ben Boina injured in their shock win against Ghana and back-ups Moyadh Ousseini and Ali Ahamada subsequently testing positive for Covid. Chaker Alhadhur was given the nod, with the Ajaccio left-back looking understandably nervous in his bright blue goalkeeping kit as the anthems rang round the Olembe Stadium.
The odds were further stacked against the underdogs when, seven minutes in, Jimmy Abdou was sent off after catching Moumi Ngamaleu on the back of the ankle. While it looked innocuous in real time and was missed by referee Bamlak Tessema Weyesa, he was called to the monitor by VAR and, on reviewing the incident, decided to show Abdou a straight red.
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Amazingly, Comoros held out for almost half an hour without conceding. The Indomitable Lions finally opened the scoring when Karl Toko Ekambi lashed into the far corner, leaving Alhadhur stranded, but almost ceded the lead minutes later when Andre Onana was forced to make a fantastic double save to keep out Ahmed Mogni and Mohamed Youssouf.
When the half-time whistle went with the score at 1-0, it felt like a huge achievement for Alhadhur and co. Where their hosts had been wasteful, Comoros had battled for every ball and worked incredibly hard to stay in the game.
The second half began with a fantastic save from Alhadhur, who denied Vincent Aboubakar a headed goal with his legs. He followed up with an incredible double stop of his own, getting down low to frustrate Aboubakar again before keeping out Ngamaleu on the follow-up.
Cameroon thought they had finally broken their opponents’ resistance when, with 70 minutes on the clock, Aboubakar sprinted in behind, waltzed around Alhadhur and lashed into the net from close range. They were not accounting for Youssouf M’Changama, however, who gave Comoros hope against all odds with a beautiful free kick from 30 yards.
Comoros continued to give as good as they got right up until the final whistle, but Cameroon held on for the win. They will now face Gambia in the quarter-finals, though their opponents deserve to return home as national heroes.
Comoros' replacement goalkeeper Chaker Alhadhur (R)
Image credit: Getty Images
TALKING POINT - Should Abdou have seen red?
While every AFCON last-16 tie has witnessed a red card so far, none of them have come as early as seven minutes. Given the impact on an already weakened Comoros side, it was always going to be an unpopular decision.
Nonetheless, while it didn’t look intentional, replays showed that Abdou had come down hard on Ngamaleu’s ankle, twisting it horribly. He might have got away with a yellow on another day but, whether he meant it or not, the challenge could certainly be classed as dangerous.
PLAYER OF THE MATCH - Chaker Alhadhur (Comoros)
It’s an obvious choice, isn’t it? Who cares, he deserves it.
It’s hard to overstate the mettle required for a left-back to play the full 90 minutes in goal, let alone to pull off several excellent saves. While Alhadhur’s technique was hardly orthodox and a specialist goalkeeper might have been able to stop at least one of Cameroon’s goals, he lifted his team-mates with his bravery between the sticks and wrote himself into AFCON folklore in the process.
Cameroon: A Onana 8, Nouhou 6, Ngadeu 6, Castelletto 6, Fai 6, Toko Ekambi 7, Anguissa 5, Hongla 6, Ngamaleu 6, Aboubakar 7, Choupo-Moting 5. Subs: Njie 6, Bassogog 5, Lea Siliki 6, Bahoken 5, J Onana 5
Comoros: Alhadhur 9, M Youssouf 8, Zahary 8, Abdou 3, Bakari 7, Bachirou 6, Abdullah 6, B Youssouf 7, M’Changama 8, Mogni 7, El Fardou Ben Nabouhane 7. Subs: Mattoir 5, A Mohamed 6, M’Madi N/A, Djoumoi N/A, Djoudja N/A
7’ RED CARD! Abdou is off in another huge blow to Comoros. Replays show that it was a bad challenge, bending Ngamaleu’s ankle, but it didn’t look deliberate and Abdou will feel hard done-by.
29’ GOAL! Cameroon 1-0 Comoros (Toko Ekambi): It’s heartbreak for Comoros. They lose the ball in midfield, Aboubakar tees up Toko Ekambi and he lashes one into the far corner with Alhadhur rooted to the spot.
33’ DOUBLE SAVE FROM ONANA! Comoros make a rare foray forwards and very nearly score. Mogni forces Onana into a diving save from distance before Mohamed Youssouf tests him again on the follow-up.
53’ MAGNIFICENT DOUBLE SAVE! This is honestly amazing. Alhadhur gets down low to keep out Aboubakar, then pulls off a wonderful second save to deny Ngamaleu.
70’ GOAL! Cameroon 2-0 Comoros (Aboubakar): Aboubakar wins it for Cameroon, running in behind, deceiving Alhadhur with a clever touch and thrashing into the back of the net.
81’ GOAL! Cameroon 2-1 Comoros (M’Changama): Oh my goodness. At a free kick, M’Changama steps up and whips one into the top corner from 30 yards.
- Comoros ended the game with seven shots on target, one more than their opponents, despite Cameroon’s 66 per cent possession and one-man advantage.
- There have now been five red cards in four last-16 ties at this tournament, at a rate of 1.25 a game.
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