Four-time African champions Cameroon survived a scare from debutants Guinea Bissau, scoring two second half goals to win 2-1 and enhance their chances of making it to the quarters of the 2017 African Cup of Nations.
Defender Michael Ngadeu was arguably the toast of the Cameroonian side as on one end 10 minutes into the second half cleared the ball off the line to prevent a second goal from Guinea Bissau.
On the opposite end, 12 minutes to time, he fired a low scorcher that gave the Indomitable Lions a first AFCON win since 2010.
With the result, Cameroon go top of the group with four points while Burkina Faso and hosts Gabon are second and third respectively with two points each after they drew 1-1 in the earlier kick off.
Heading into the final round of matches on Sunday, Gabon will need to win against Cameroon to keep alive their hopes. If Burkina Faso win against Guinea Bissau, then they will progress to the quarters as well.
A draw between Cameroon and Gabon will mean the Indomitable Lions progress. Cameroon was forced to dig deep by Guinea Bissau’s Wild Dogs who are making their maiden AFCON appearance.
Piqueti Djassi Brito e Silva’s superb solo effort in the 13th minute of the match gave Guinea Bissau a dream start to the match. They showed superb character as they never held back despite going ahead against a formidable and respected opponent.
Piqueti picked the ball deep in his own half drove into the Cameroon area, cut in to leave his markers for dead and shoot past the keeper.
Cameroon thrown aback by the goal sought to get things back on track and Benjamin Moukandjo’s shot after a knock down from Vincent Aboubakar was saved by Jonas Mendes in the Djurtus goal.
Aboubacar who missed the first game should have taken Cameroon back into the game but he shot meekly after a cut back from Clinton Njie.
In the second half, the debutants came back with the same intensity and they should have been two up were it not for Ngadeu.
Frederic Mendy robbed defender Adolphe Teikeu of the ball at the edge of the box but his after lobbing over the keeper, the Cameroonian defender rushed back to sweep away the ball.
Cameroon read the signals that Guinea Bissau was not in for games. On the hour mark, Sebastian Siani’s unstoppable shot from the edge of the box gave Cameroon a lifeline after the midfielder took the effort from a Benjamin Moukandjo set up.
Three minutes later, Hugo Broos, the Cameroon boss dug back into his tactical book, introducing defender Nicholas Nkolou for Constant Mandjeck while the ineffective Aboubacar came off for winger Robert Ndip Tambe.
The change saw goal scorer Ngadeu move into midfield from defense paving way for Nkolou. Cameroon increased the intensity but were almost caught out with Mendy’s long range effort saved by Ondoa.
The Cameroonians though grabbed the win in the 78th minute, Ngadeu scoring with another long ranger outside the box after being set up by Christian Bassogog.
At the same time, Hosts Gabon find themselves staring at the possibility of exiting the tournament in the first round after being held to the second draw, a 1-1 result by a hard fighting Burkina Faso.
The Gabonese once again had to look onto the feet of Borussia Dortmund forward and the country’s most precious football son Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang for consolation.
The forward scored his second goal of the tournament from the penalty spot after Burkina Faso who played to a draw with Cameroon in the first match had gone ahead early.
In a packed and loud Stade de l’Amitie, Prejuce Nakoulma sent the crowd into deafening silence after giving the Burkinabe an early lead. Coming into the match, Gabon had to deal with the bad news that their midfielder Mario Lemina will be ruled out of the entire tournament with injury.
Burkina Faso too were to find themselves in the same predicament when danger man Jonathan Pitroipa was stretchered off early in the game.
He was replaced by Nakoulma who went on to give the side the lead after beating Didier Ovono in the Gabon goal with a simple finish after latching onto a long ball.
The hosts however leveled the scores seven minutes later after Burkina Faso keeper Herve Koffi swept down Aubameyang inside the box. The forward took responsibility himself to level matters and raise the decibel levels in the stadium.
In the second half, both sides started with pace as they sought the winner. As the game approached the 65 minute mark, Gabon intensified their attacks. They had a chance when Aubameyang knocked down the ball for Denis Bouanga inside the box but the Burkina Faso keeper made an important block.
Burkina Faso oft resorted to time wasting tactics as they chose to solidify the draw and poke off pressure with Gabon ploughing for a winner.
Elsewhere, Egypt are faced with a dire situation with only one keeper, Essam El Hadary left fit. Hadary who made history by being the oldest ever player at the AFCON came on as an early substitute in Egypt’s draw with Mali, replacing the injured Ahmed El Shenawy.
The Zamalek SC shot stopper has now been ruled out of the tournament. According to BBC Sport, the third choice keeper Sherif Ekramy is also nursing a hamstring strain and might not be available for selection.
According to CAF rules, there are no provisions for replacing an injured player after the tournament has started. The only provision is if the CAF medical team ascertains that a player cannot go on, before the first game of the tournament.
The Pharaohs who are playing their first AFCON since 2010 will now hope the 44-year old legend will stay injury free as they eye progress into the quarter finals.