Host Cameroon and Mali drew 1-1 in an action-packed match at the African Nations Championship clash in Yaounde on Wednesday.
The home side raced into the lead when Salomon Banga rose highest in the 6th minute to head home from a free-kick in the Group A match.
It was the Indomitable Lions captain and Cotonsport defender’s second goal of the competition after scoring in the tournament’s opener on Saturday.
The Eagles responded almost immediately with Issaka Samake sweetly curling in a free-kick seven minutes later for the equalizer.
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But a string of fine saves by Cameroon goalkeeper Hascohu Kerrido prevented the home side from losing the game that saw a lot of goalmouth action and near misses.
The result means that both teams have four points after winning their opening matches of the competition that started last Saturday.
The Indomitable Lions entered the game as favourites thanks to the support of the home fans but a determined Mali side were keen on proving their prowess.
When Anthony Mfede curled a free-kick from the right, Banga was first to respond by jumping higher than the Mali defenders to spark some wild jubilation among the fans.
Their celebration was short-lived because the goal was a wake-up call for the West Africans who fought back strongly.
Samake leveled the scores for Mali in the 13th minutes when he beautifully struck a free-kick outside the box to beat the impressive Cameroon’s goalkeeper Haschou.
The Indomitable Lions had shots by Serge Andoulo and Thierry Tchuemte stopped by defenders, while Mali’s Siaka Bagayoko proved a torn in the flesh of the Cameroonian defenders.
The West African looked brighter and more of a threat with more attacks just after the break as they charged forward in search of a winner.
Cameroon goalkeeper Hascohu produced three fantastic saves midway through the second-half with the Malian strikers failing to score from inside the box.
Mali’s goalkeeper Djigui Diarra made a good block when he punched away Serge Andoulo’s shot before an angled strike hit the crossbar.
But the Eagles responded immediately from the counter-attack in the 66th minute as Sadio Kanoute found himself in a one-on-one situation but Cameroon’s goalkeeper was up to the task blocking his shot from close range with his leg.
The two teams continued to create scoring opportunities, but failed to take them. Mali had Ibrahim Sidibe and Mamadou Doumbia booked.
Cameroon will play Burkina Faso play their last group game on Sunday at the Ahmadou Ahidjo Stadium in Yaounde while will be played simultaneously with the group’s other game.
Mali will travel to Douala for their clash with Zimbabwe at the iconic Japoma Stadium in the group’s other match of the day.
What they said
Martin Mpile (Coach, Cameroon)
Mali presented a very good team. They caused us problems in the different compartments. We have put in place a system to defend well. Our chances did not come to fruition against a good Malian defense. The most important thing for us is to score goals. We will study Burkina Faso to win our next meeting.
Nouhoum Diané (Coach, Mali)
It was a very good match against a good Cameroonian team. We are happy with the result because the most important thing was not to lose. Both teams wanted to win. We will face Zimbabwe with the usual seriousness to win and secure our qualification.