Hosts Cameroon beat Burkina Faso in Afcon opener

On Sunday in Yaounde, hosts Cameroon came from behind to defeat Covid-ravaged Burkina Faso 2-1 in the opening game of the Africa Cup of Nations.

Burkina Faso took the lead through Gustavo Sangare in the Group A match at the Olembe Stadium, but Aboubakar equalized five minutes before halftime following a VAR review.

The 29-year-old, who scored the winning goal in the 2017 Cup of Nations final against Egypt, then scored what proved to be the game-winning goal in first-half stoppage time, and he was only denied a hat-trick after the break by an offside flag.

It is the ideal start for the Indomitable Lions as they seek their sixth continental title on home soil, with Cameroon finally hosting a tournament that was taken away from them and given to Egypt in 2019, only to be postponed a year ago due to the pandemic.

Covid restrictions capped the crowd at the Olembe Stadium at 80% of its 60,000-capacity, but that did not dampen the hosts’ spirits, as celebratory fireworks lit up the sky at full-time.

President Paul Biya, 88, of Cameroon, who has ruled the Central African country for 40 years, as well as FIFA President Gianni Infantino and Confederation of African Football President Patrice Motsepe, attended the match and opening ceremony.

However, Aboubakar, the former Porto striker who now plays club football in Saudi Arabia, stole the show as Cameroon immediately took the lead in Group A, which also includes Ethiopia and Cape Verde.

Burkina Faso were dealt a blow on the eve of the tournament when coach Kamou Malo and several players tested positive for the coronavirus, leaving assistant coach Firmin Sanou in charge.

However, they took the lead in the 24th minute when Cameroon goalkeeper Andre Onana came for and missed a Bertrand Traore right-wing cross, and France-based midfielder Sangare was on hand to turn the ball in at the far post.

Nonetheless, with the assistance of VAR, Cameroon, coached by Toni Conceicao of Portugal, turned the game on its head by half-time.

The Algerian referee awarded the Indomitable Lions a penalty for a foul by Traore on Napoli’s Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa, which Aboubakar converted in the 40th minute.

He then scored again from 12 yards in first-half stoppage time after Issoufou Dayo’s reckless challenge.

Burkina Faso threatened a comeback in the second half when Traore tested Onana with a long-range free-kick and Adama Guira saw an attempt saved by the goalkeeper, but the home side held on.

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