A standout performance from Cameroon and Colombe Sportive winger Jérôme Ngom Mbekeli led the Intermediate Lions to a 1-0 victory in their 2022 African Nations Championship Group E opener against Republic of Congo. Mbekeli headed in the only goal of the match in the second half as Cameroon took the first step towards living up to expectations as the favorite to win the group. Cameroon will have to wait eight days for their second Group E clash against Niger, who will start their campaign on Friday against a Congolese side that needs a win.
The Cameroonian team looked to control possession and dominate the ball in the early stages of the match, leading to few opportunities early on until the 20th minute when Mbekeli set up Djawal Kaïba for a shot that was well tipped over by Congo goalkeeper Pavel Ndzila. Congo did pose an occasional threat to a Cameroonian defense that looked indecisive at times with direct long balls to the quick Congolese forwards. However, Cameroon grew in confidence moving forward and the Congolese defense was impacted by center back leader Julfin Ondongo’s substitution due to injury early in the second half.
Mbekeli was a constant threat and created two golden opportunities soon after halftime. The 2022 FIFA World Cup squad member for Cameroon provided a perfect cross to Junior Dibami in the 48th minute but the forward failed to direct an open header on goal. Ten minutes later Mbekeli flew by a defender to the end line and closed in on goal before crossing low to Ramses Nguimzeu, whose shot was well blocked by the scrambling Congolese defense.
It appeared a breakthrough was inevitable for the Intermediate Lions and Mbekeli provided the final touch in the 63rd minute when Nguimzeu burst down the left wing and floated a cross in for Mbekeli to head past Ndzila. Poor finishing kept Cameroon from doubling their lead five minutes later after a clever dribbling run and low cross from Arthur Ebong resulted in a scuffed finish from six yards out to keep Congo in the match. The Congolese posed little threat in their efforts to push for a leveler and Cameroon held on for the full three points.
Highlights of the match are below.