Karl Toko Ekambi’s expertly executed freekick in the first half was all Cameroon needed to start their 2023 TotalEnergies Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers on a winning note with a 1-0 victory over Burundi in Dar es Salaam.
Cameroon was to play Kenya in their opening match last weekend but the game was called off with the Harambee Stars still under FIFA suspension.
But the Indomitable Lions remained focused and started their journey with a win away against a Burundi side which started off the qualifiers with an away draw against Namibia.
Elsewhere, 10-man Mali came from a goal down to beat South Sudan 2-1 in a game played at the St. Mary’s Stadium in Kitende, Uganda.
Burundi 0-1 Cameroon
At the National Stadium in Dar es Salaam where Burundi will be staging their home matches, The Indomitable Lions were the overall better team in the contest and after constantly knocking on the Swallows’ door.
They ultimately broke the deadlock in the 31st minute when Ekambi curled a freekick beyond the wall and into the top left corner after Vincent Aboubakar had been fouled at the edge of the box.
Cameroon came close to doubling their lead at the stroke of halftime when Aboubakar met a cross from the right, but his header came off the outside of the bar.
In the second half, Cameroon continued to dominate and they had another chance in the 67th minute. Some well worked build up at the edge of the Burundian box saw Eric Maxim Choupo Moting find shooting space, but the latter’s rasping effort was deflected for a corner.
A minute later they came close again, this time Aboubakar’s effort from inside the box being cleared off the line by Frederic Nsabiyumva.
In the final 20 minutes of the match, Burundi tried to improve their attack as they felt a chance to grab a goal. However, they couldn’t crack the Cameroonian backline.
South Sudan 1-3 Mali
At the St. Mary’s Stadium in Kitende, substitutes Sekou Koita and Aliou Dieng scored twice in added time as Mali came from a goal down, and a man down, to beat South Sudan 3-1 at home.
Mohamed Camara cancelled out Rashid Toha’s opener before the late flurry of goals saw them sneak away with a win, despite playing the last 16 minutes of the game with 10 men.
The visitors were numerically handicapped after Ibrahima Kone was sent off in the 78th minute after swinging an elbow on Toha, but that didn’t stop Mali’s ambition for back to back wins in the qualifiers.
South Sudan had started the match with determination as they sought to recover from last weekend’s loss to Gambia.
They were rewarded on the half hour mark when Toha scored the opener, bumbling the ball home after skipper Peter Manyang’s initial effort from a freekick had come off the bar.
But in the second half, Mali were revived when Camara scored with a low finish from inside the box. They almost went 2-1 up after 65 minutes but the South Sudan keeper pulled off a brilliant save to deny El Bilal Toure’s brilliant header.
Mali were on the upper side, but were seemingly dented after going a man down with 12 minutes of regular time to play.
Nonetheless, they took that as motivation and in the 93rd minute, substitute Koita who had spent less than three minutes on the pitch headed the second from a Mousa Djenepo volleyed cross from the left.
Two minutes later, Al Ahly’s Dieng who had come on in the 84th minute sealed the victory with a sweet low shot after being set up by Nene Dorgeles.
With the win, Mali top Group G with six points while South Sudan remain bottom after back to back losses.