Captain Vincent Aboubakar has converted two penalty kicks as hosts Cameroon came from behind to beat Burkina Faso 2-1 in the opening match of the Africa Cup of Nations finals.
Burkina Faso, who were without their coach Kamou Malo and six players who tested positive for COVID-19, gave away two clumsy penalties after Gustavo Sangare had silenced the home crowd, estimated at around 45,000, at the newly-built Olembe Stadium in Yaounde, with the opening goal.
Sangare had finished with his left foot at the back post in the 24th minute to hand the Burkinabe a surprise lead in the Group A encounter.
But then their captain Bertrand Traore and defender Issoufou Dayo gave away penalties in quick succession just before halftime.
The experienced Aboubakar, who was part of Cameroon’s winning team at the 2017 Cup of Nations in neighbouring Gabon, tucked away both kicks in the 40th minute and in the third minute of first-half stoppage time with aplomb.
Traore had lunged clumsily to catch Andre Zambo Anguissa but it was only given as a penalty after the Algerian referee Mustapha Ghorbal had checked with VAR.
The referee, however, had no hesitation about awarding the second as Dayo’s scything tackle took out the feet of Nouhou Tolo as the first half went into stoppage time.
Burkina Faso’s goal came after a rare error from Cameroon goalkeeper Andre Onana, who recently returned from a nine-month drug ban, as he came out and missed Traore’s cross, allowing Sangare to finish expertly at the back post.
The opening game was preceded by a colourful opening ceremony, against the background of frenzied preparations to get the 24-team tournament ready in time.
The Confederation of African Football had last month considered cancelling the tournament and multiple COVID-19 cases continued to cast a shadow over events.
In Sunday’s late game, striker Julio Tavares headed home the winner as Cape Verde Islands shrugged off their coronavirus woes to beat 10-man Ethiopia.
The result left the victors second in their group behind Cameron on goal difference.
Cape Verde were without coach Bubista, in quarantine after testing positive for the COVID-19, and they had just six substitutes on the bench, with a further nine players isolating, and two injured.