By Satish Sekar at Yaounde’s Olembé Stadium © Satish Sekar (January 9th 2022)
A man of the match performance by Cameroon’s captain Vincent Aboubaker rescued all the points from a determined Burkina Faso team, already smarting from a perceived Covid-19 injustice. The Stallions’ skipper, Bertrand Traoré, currently playing for Aston Villa, was livid over COVID testing before the match.
Traoré insisted that the testing was invalid – the wrong test. The Burkinabe took the matter to CAF but received no joy. COVID testing is already a hot issue, and likely to become more and more contentious. Traoré at least was in no mood to accept what he saw as an injustice. It remains to be seen how this saga will play out during the 33rd AFCON – the first in the COVID-19 era.
Against the run of play, Burkina Faso took the lead – some blamed returning keeper André Onana for the Stallions’ goal but that seemed harsh on the Ajax keeper. The Indomitable Lions had had the better of the play before Gustavo Sangaré’s goal, but the threat was limited.
Issoufou Dayo’s goal-bound header was cleared on the line by Nouhou Tolo but Traoré’s pass provided the assist for Sangaré to blast in at the far post almost midway through the first half. It briefly silenced the crowd, who had whistled their disapproval of FIFA President Gianni Infantino during the opening ceremony.
Trailing 1-0 with half time approaching, Traoré challenged Zambo Anguissa after a corner. Traoré believed he had done nothing wrong. However, this challenge was to make history. Algerian referee, Mustapha Ghorbal, initially waved play on but was advised to consult VAR. Ghorbal changed his mind after seeing the replay. This was the first penalty given after using VAR in the history of the Africa Cup of Nations Finals.
Another penalty was awarded for a foul on Tolo by Issoufou in added time at the end of the first half. It gave Aboubaker another opportunity from the spot. Again, he made no mistake.
He had a brace – it could already have been a hat-trick as after beating the keeper outside his area, the angle proved too tight for Cameroon’s skipper to convert. He also had a second half goal disallowed for offside.
The Stallions’ assistant coach, Firmin Sanon, conceded that the penalties were fair but questioned other decisions. Sanon thought that the Stallions were treated harsher than the Indomitable Lions.
Ethiopia face Cape Verde in the later kick-off.