Mali 1 Cameroon 1: Oyongo ensures share of the spoils
Ambroise Oyongo scored a late equaliser to rescue a 1-1 draw for Cameroon in their Africa Cup of Nations Group D opener against Mali in Malabo on Tuesday.
With many of the players from a dreadful World Cup campaign left out of the squad, Volker Finke's men entered the tournament as one of the favourites to win the trophy in Equatorial Guinea.
But Cameroon looked destined for defeat when they fell behind to a Mali side that has reached the semi-finals of the AFCON in each of the last two tournaments.
It was midfielder Sambou Yatabare who put Mali ahead in the 71st minute by converting a free-kick from captain Seydou Keita.
Henryk Kasperczak's men were unable to protect their advantage, though, as right-back Oyongo proved to be the saviour for Cameroon when he stole into the penalty area to equalise six minutes from time.
The result leaves all the teams in Group D level on one point following the Ivory Coast's 1-1 draw with Guinea.
Mali started the better of the two sides went close to opening the scoring in the 10th minute when Bakary Sako's close-range effort was turned past the post by Fabrice Ondoa.
The Wolves midfielder then saw a far-post cross headed wide by Mustapha Yatabare with the goal at the striker's mercy.
Cameroon were dealt a blow when midfielder Eyong Enoh limped off 17 minutes in and was replaced by Franck Kom, but Finke's men would have taken the lead had Soumbeila Diakite not tipped Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting's powerful header over the crossbar.
It was Mali who continued to create the better openings, but their lack of a cutting edge ensured the first half ended goalless.
Following the restart Cameroon began to gain more of a foothold in the game, but chances were few and far between for the four times champions.
Aurelien Chedjou curled a free-kick over the bar from the edge of the area before Benjamin Moukandjo fired wide from a tight angle.
And it was Mali who opened the scoring courtesy of a Sambou Yatabare's strike.
The on-loan Guingamp man controlled the ball with the chest after Keita's set-piece from the left-wing had been flicked into his path by Molla Wague and he brought it down to power home a vicious half-volley low into the net.
That effort appeared to have ensured all three points for a Mali side that had defended well for much of the encounter.
However, there was to be one last twist in the tale as Oyongo raced into the box to collect a Raoul Loe ball over the top and held his nerve to apply the finish.
Sambou Yatabare appeared to have won it for Mali in injury time with a diving header, only for his effort to be correctly ruled out for offside.