YAOUNDE, Cameroon (AP) — Two more goals by Cameroon captain Vincent Aboubakar helped put the host into the knockout stages of the African Cup of Nations on Thursday, while positive coronavirus tests continued to put players and coaches out of action elsewhere at the tournament.
Cameroon was the first team through to the round of 16 after coming from behind for the second time in two games to overwhelm Ethiopia 4-1. The Indomitable Lions have indeed proved to be difficult to subdue, and Aboubakar scored a brace, as he did in the tournament opener, to take his tally to four goals at the tournament.
Lyon forward Karl Toko Ekambi also got two for Cameroon, which hit the post three times and could have really embarrassed Ethiopia at Olembe Stadium in Yaounde.
Burkina Faso beat Cape Verde 1-0 in Thursday’s other Group A game to bounce back from its opening-day defeat to Cameroon. Burkina Faso was without captain Bertrand Traoré, one of many players to test positive for the virus at the African soccer championship.
In a quirk, it was Hassane Bandé, the man who replaced Traoré in the team, who scored the goal that revived Burkina Faso’s chances of making it to the next round. He threw himself at a cross and cleverly chested the ball in, then patted himself on the chest in celebration.
In the first game, Ethiopia’s Dawa Hotessa Dukele had stunned the Olembe Stadium into silence with the opening goal in the fourth minute.
Cameroon shook off that blow, just as it did to come from behind to beat Burkina Faso 2-1 in the tournament opener on Sunday with two penalties from Aboubakar.
Ekambi equalized four minutes after Ethiopia’s surprise goal and Cameroon took control from then. Aboubakar scored twice in the space of two minutes early in the second half, first with a powerful header and then when he forced the ball in with a sliding finish.
Ekambi made it 4-1 by cutting back inside a group of Ethiopia defenders and firing into the bottom left corner, and after deciding against passing to Aboubakar for a chance for a hat trick for the captain.
Ekambi and Aboubakar were both taken off by Cameroon coach Toni Conceicao, who knows there are tougher tests ahead.
Nine of the first 12 games at the African Cup had ended 1-0, and there were also two 0-0 draws, so Cameroon’s free-scoring result brought the tournament some much-needed goals.
Gabon will also hope for goals from Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who is out of isolation and available to play against Ghana on Friday having tested positive for the virus at an airport on arrival in Cameroon last week.
In an interview released by the Gabon soccer federation, the Arsenal forward said he was “so excited to get back to training” having been confined to his hotel room with an exercise bike.
It wasn’t all good news for Gabon, though. As Aubameyang and midfielder Mario Lemina returned after their positive tests, coach Patrice Neveu and defenders Sidney Obissa and Lloyd Palun tested positive and were ruled out of any involvement in the game against Ghana.
There was also more fallout from the refereeing debacle that marred the Mali-Tunisia game on Wednesday.
Reports quoted African soccer confederation official Essam Abdul Fattah as saying the referee in question had been suffering from sunstroke when he twice blew for full time too early in the game, and needed to go to the hospital after the match.
Zambian referee Janny Sikazwe’s errors sparked chaos and incensed Tunisian players and coaching staff because Tunisia was losing 1-0. There was even an attempt to restart the game about 30 minutes after it finished to play out the time Sikazwe missed, but Tunisia refused to get back on the field.
Tunisia has lodged an official protest over Sikazwe’s actions with the African confederation.