Holders Cameroon held to surprise draw by Algeria

 

Cameroon, winners of the last two African Nations Cups, were held to a surprise 1-1 draw by outsiders Algeria as they began the defence of their crown this afternoon.

Patrick Mboma headed the Indomitable Lions ahead shortly before halftime but Algeria, who have not been beyond the quarter-finals since they won the 1990 tournament, equalised
through substitute Brahim Zafour after the break.

It was the first goal conceded by Cameroon in the tournament since the 2000 final against Nigeria. They kept six successive clean sheets on their way to winning in Mali two years ago.

The result was rough justice on the holders, who dominated the match before and after the Algerian goal but could not convert their chances.

Cameroon played some scintillating football in the first half with the midfield skills of Modeste Mbami, the pinpoint crossing of Geremi Fotso Njitap on the right, the pace of
Mohamadou Idrissou on the left and the trickery of Samuel Eto'o in attack.

Defender Rigobert Song had a header pushed away by goalkeeper Lounes Gaouaoui in the 16th minute in the first Cameroon attack.

Eto'o then created two openings as he slipped effortlessly by his markers but was let down by his finishing as he fired the first over the bar and the second weakly at Gaouaoui.

But it was the old stalwart Mboma, a late call-up for the squad, who gave Cameroon the lead in the 43rd minute.

Geremi was set free on the right by Mbami's clever flick and his superbly-weighted cross fell invitingly for Mboma, who scored with a powerful downward header.

Algeria, backed by a large contingent of supporters who had driven across the nearby border, hit back almost immediately after the break.

A long corner from the right fell at the feet of unmarked defender Zafour and the halftime substitute took advantage to drill a low shot through a crowd of defenders and past Idriss
Carlos Kameni.

Cameroon quickly regained the initiative but wasted their chances, with Eto'o the main culprit.

The Real Mallorca player broke through the defence after a one-two with Mboma only to be denied by Gaouaoui and shortly afterwards was released on the right only to shoot into the
side-netting.

At the other end, Naserdine Kraouche had a good effort from a well-worked free kick but otherwise Algeria were forced to defend grimly for their point.

In the day's other games, Zimbabwe defeated cup debutantes Egypt 2-1 in Group C, while Guinea came back from a goal down to beat their Group A DR Congo rivals 2-1 at the African Cup of Nations.