The Cameroon hosts recovered with two penalties within eight minutes at halftime and beat Burkina Faso 2-1 in the opener of the African Cup of Nations
Captain Vincent Aboubakar scored both penalties, calmly inserting the first to the right of the goal and the second to the left to complete a comeback that left the home fans with a sigh of relief.
Cameroon had suffered a three-year delay to host the tournament after being deprived of the 2019 edition and then seeing their 2021 ambitions delayed by a year due to the coronavirus pandemic.
It looked like the wait wouldn’t be worth it as Gustavo Sangare gave Burkina Faso the lead in the 24th minute at the Olembe stadium in Yaounde.
Sangare scored after Burkina Faso saw a header pushed off the line and then hit the crossbar with the same move.
But the visitors lost the lead with two reckless defenses at halftime.
Aston Villa’s Bertrand Traore broke into Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa to give Cameroon the first penalty, which was only confirmed after Algerian referee Mustapha Ghorbal consulted the VAR.
Immediately afterwards, Issoufou Dayo missed the time on a sliding tackle for a foul on Nouhou Tolo, and Aboubakar scored again from the spot three minutes into first recovery time.
VAR was again in the spotlight in the second half when there was a lengthy review to nullify a third goal for Cameroon for offside.
The Africa Cup of Nations officially began with a short opening ceremony a few hours earlier at the Olembe Stadium. The continent’s flagship football will be played in the shadow of the coronavirus pandemic and amid a global surge in cases.
FIFA president Gianni Infantino attended the opening ceremony, as did Cameroon president Paul Biya, 88, who has led the Central African country since 1982.
Cameroon will play Ethiopia at Olembe Stadium on Thursday at 4pm, live Sky Sport Soccer.
In the other Group A match, Burkina Faso will face Cape Verde at 7pm, live Sky Sport Soccer.
Sky Sports will broadcast AFCON live
The Africa Cup of Nations tournament will be broadcast live on Sky Sports in January and February.
The tournament, originally scheduled for June and July 2021, will be played in Cameroon between January 9 and February 6, 2022, with Sky Sports broadcasting all 52 matches live.