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Aboubakar’s clinical penalty kicks lead Cameroon in comeback victory over Burkina Faso

The Indomitable Lions of Cameroon overcame a poor start to defeat Burkina Faso 2-1 in the opening match of the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations on Sunday. Cameroon captain Vincent Aboubakar struck twice from the penalty spot in the first half after Gustavo Sangare opened the scoring for Les Étalons, sending the hosts to the top of Group A in front of an energetic home crowd.

Both teams came out with bundles of nervous energy that resulted in quite sloppy play early in the match. Burkinabé defender Steeve Yago was fortunate to escape with only a yellow card after his first minute challenge saw his studs go into the thigh of a Cameroonian attacker. The first opportunity fell to Cameroon in the 8th minute when Aboubakar received a pass and did brilliantly to turn past two defenders before getting his attempt at a curling shot all wrong.

However, the home crowd was stunned when Burkina Faso took the lead in the 24th minute thanks to a nightmare sequence for Cameroon goalkeeper André Onana. A corner from Sangare on the left wing found towering center back Issoufou Dayo, whose header was cleared off the line by Nouhou Tolo. The ensuing play saw the ball come back to Sangare on the wing, who sent in another curling cross that glanced off the crossbar as Onana haplessly flapped at the ball. Burkinabe captain Bertrand Traoré tracked the ball down near the corner flag before sending in an excellent cross. Onana came out to make a play but missed once again, and the ball fell to Sangare on the edge of the six-yard box for a volleyed finish into the empty net.

Fortunately for Onana, the Indomitable Lions were able to settle into the match and find a response before halftime. In the 36th minute, a corner kick for Cameroon led to a scramble for the ball in the Burkinabe penalty area. Cameroon midfielder André Zambo Anguissa got to the loose ball first and touched it away as Traoré committed a clumsy challenge to take down the Napoli player. Following a VAR review, a penalty kick was awarded and Aboubakar sent goalkeeper Hervé Koffi the wrong way to equalize in the 40th minute.

Aboubakar was soon back for another spot kick attempt in first half stoppage time. Seattle Sounders FC left back Nouhou Tolo drove into the Burkina Faso penalty area and was hacked down by a late tackle from Dayo after getting a cross in. Referee Mustapha Ghorbal once again awarded a penalty kick and Aboubakar made it look easy by keeping his eyes on Koffi as he struck another flawless penalty kick past him.

Cameroon dominated possession and won the midfield battle, reducing Burkina Faso almost exclusively to attacks down the right flank where Traoré was contstantly surrounded by Indomitable Lion defenders. The Stallions’ best opportunities to level the match came early in the second half. In the 47th minute, Traoré unleashed a swerving free kick from about forty yards that was punched away by the nervous looking Onana. The best chance for Burkina Faso came soon after in the 55th minute when Traoré blasted a low free kick from the right wing on goal. The initial ball was touched by center back Jérôme Onguéné right to Yago in the six-yard box, but the defender’s shot went right at Onana who blocked it away.

Burkina Faso failed to create much for the remainder of the match while Cameroon came close on a couple of occasions to stretching their lead, the closest being Anguissa’s 74th minute shot that took a slight deflection off Yago before going wide. The hosts’ dominance of the midfield limited the Burkinabe attack to shots from outside the box as Cameroon held off to obtain the expected result.

Highlights of the match are below.

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