Total Energies Africa Cup of Nations host Cameroon opened the tournament with a come-from-behind 2-1 win over Group A rivals Burkina Faso at the Olembe Stadium in Yaounde on Sunday evening.
The Stallions looked on course for an upset when Gustavo Sangare put them ahead just after the midway point of the first half, but a pair of Vincent Aboubakar penalties in the minutes before the break ensured the Indomitable Lions claimed all three points on offer.
The first real sight of goal went the way of Cameroon in the eighth minute, with striker Aboubakar showing good footwork to open a shooting chance on the edge of the penalty area, but he blazed a shot high and wide.
Four minutes later Karl Toko Ekambi beat Burkina Faso goalkeeper Herve Koffi to a long ball and managed to round the shot-stopper down the right flank, though his subsequent attempt at a cross was sliced behind for a goal kick, as the hosts missed out on a great attacking opportunity.
The Indomitable Lions had bossed the opening quarter, but the Stallions claimed the lead on 24 minutes: Bertrand Traore – who had seconds before seen a header from a corner kick cleared off the line – whipped in a cross from the right flank which was missed by goalkeeper Andre Onana and allowed Gustavo Sangare to volley home left-footed for 1-0.
Traore went from creator to being culpable for Cameroon’s equaliser late in the first half, with the Aston Villa attacker guilty of a clumsy challenge on Andre Frank Zambo Anguissa in the 18-yard area.
Initially missed by referee Mustapha Ghorbal, VAR intervened and called for the official to watch the replay – he then awarded a spot-kick to the hosts and Aboubakar coolly converted for 1-1 in the 40th minute.
The Lions were soon 2-1 up via another well-taken penalty from Aboubakar in injury time before the interval. This time the spot-kick was awarded for a rash, late challenge from Issoufou Dayo on Nouhou Tolo long after the latter had clipped in a cross from the left of the penalty area.
Burkina Faso looked for an equaliser early in the second half and were close to levelling the game 10 minutes after the restart, as a well-worked free-kick gave Cyrille Bayala a shooting chance just a few metres from goal, but Onana made a brave block to keep Cameroon ahead.
The hosts made the first changes with just over 20 minutes to play, sending on Clinton Njie and Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting, while the Burkinabe responded with the introductions of Mohamed Konate and Zakaria Sanogo shortly thereafter.
Cameroon looked the likelier scorers at this phase of the game, with Anguissa seeing a low shot deflected just wide of the target before Aboubakar blazed a shot off target from a tight angle on 77 minutes.
Yet the hosts did not find the third goal needed to avoid a nervy ending, with the Stallions pushing hard for an equaliser in the dying stages. However, the best chance they could muster was an injury-time effort from substitute Mohamed Konate which was comfortably saved by Onana.
The teams will be back in Group A action on Thursday 13 January, with Cameroon taking on Ethiopia and Burkina Faso battling Cape Verde – both at the Olembe Stadium.