LIBREVILLE, Gabon, Jan 14 – A brilliant Benjamin Moukandjo free-kick was not enough for Cameroon to win their opening game at the Africa Cup of Nations on Saturday as Burkina Faso battled back to draw 1-1.
Moukandjo, the Indomitable Lions captain, curled in a superb effort from a dead ball 10 minutes before the interval in the Group A game at the Stade de l’Amitie in Libreville.
However, 2013 runners-up Burkina Faso recovered to equalise with a quarter of an hour left, Issoufou Dayo bundling the ball in with a close range header after Banou Diawara’s free-kick was saved.
The result means there is nothing between any of the sides in Group A after hosts Gabon were held to a 1-1 draw by Guinea-Bissau in the tournament’s opening match earlier in the day.
Gabon play Burkina Faso and Cameroon face Guinea-Bissau in the next round of matches on Wednesday at the same venue.
Cameroon have won the Cup of Nations four times but their build-up to this year’s tournament has been overshadowed by a raft of withdrawals by key players, including Liverpool defender Joel Matip and Schalke striker Eric Choupo-Moting.
Nevertheless, Hugo Broos’s side have not lost since a narrow friendly defeat to France in May last year and they started well, an organisational gaffe that prevented the national anthems being played prior to kick-off clearly not upsetting them.
Moukandjo, of French top-flight strugglers Lorient, underlined his importance to this rejuvenated Cameroon side when he dispatched his free-kick past Herve Koffi from just outside the box on 35 minutes.
However, after Koffi saved well from Clinton Njie, the game ultimately hinged on a crucial moment in first-half stoppage time.
Christian Bassogog looked set to double Cameroon’s lead as he raced clean through on goal but Koffi came flying out of his area and denied him with a crunching challenge.
Koffi thwarted Cameroon again just before the hour mark, batting out a Jacques Zoua piledriver before Njie sent the follow-up wide.
Burkina Faso remained in the game and the Stallions drew level when Fabrice Ondoa kept out substitute Diawara’s strike but could not prevent Dayo, who plays his club football in Morocco, from finding the net.