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Cameroon 0–1 Gabon: Panthers Tame Indomitable Lions

The Indomitable Lions took on their familiar foes in their first African Nations Cup game of the competition, and while other teams such as Ghana and Ivory Coast seem to be getting more attention as favourites, the make up of the squad makes them serious contenders for the title as well.

Cameroon used their strength and speed to keep their opponents under pressure, and Achille Emana showed why he was given the favoured number ten shirt with a fine move where he used a great bit of skill to skip in between two Gabon players before unleashing a tremendous shot from distance which needed an outstretched Didier Ovono to save the ball onto the post and out.

These two teams met in World Cup qualifying, and the side in green and red won both the home and away encounters as they secured their place in South Africa. Gabon were looking to avenge those results, and they stunned the crowd when they went ahead in the encounter with a goal from the ever-present Daniel Cousin in the 17th minute.

Cameroon was stunned by the setback, and Gabon continued to pressurize the Lions, with an upset on the cards in Angola. The star studded Cameroonians found space with quick counter attacks, but Samuel Eto’o, Pierre Webo and Emana could not find the equaliser, and the half-time score was 1-0 in favour of the underdogs.

In the 50th minute Alexander Song found Tchoyi with a fine through ball, but the substitute could not convert the opportunity and he wasted a fine chance in attack. Only moments later poor defending from Gabon gave Webo a chance to score with a header, but his effort went wide of the target.

In the 54th minute the crowd came alive as Eto’o found himself in space, but the Gabon defence did well to close him down and force a corner. Gabon grew in confidence as the end seemed to be in sight, but a number of corners from Cameroon applied pressure to Ovono and his defence, as the 15, 000 fans in the stadium watched on.

It was obvious who the fans wanted to see on the ball, and Eto’o created a good chance in the 68th minute with a fast counter attacking move, but Webo’s touch was too heavy and the ball went comfortably to the Gabon ‘keeper.

Gabon’s defensive record in the last round of qualifying was decent, conceding seven in six games, but four of those were against the Indomitable Lions, though they were struggling to find the back of the net in this encounter.

In the 71st minute Eto’o was dangerous once again, but Gabon threw their defence at him yet again and his shot deflected wide before a scuffle in the box between Rigobert Song and a few Gabon players was stopped by the South African referee. Moments later Eto’o found space for a shot, but Ovono was on hand to save his effort.

With time running out for Cameroon, they had yet another opportunity to score, as a fine shot from Tchoyi went agonizingly wide of goal. Ovono was such a reassuring presence at the back for Gabon, and was surely the man of the match against so many powerful attacking players. With the time just about up, Pierre Aubameyang hit the crossbar, almost making it two for Gabon. The tournament of the underdogs continues in Angola, with Gabon winning 1-0 on the day, and deserving it.

The result is a great upset for the Cameroonians, who are expected to be fighting for the title in this tournament, but a great deal of credit must go to the hard working Gabon side who were not outclassed by their more illustrious opponents. Eto’o and his team-mates will look forward in an attempt to progress to the next round, while this victory will go down in history for Gabon.

Peter Pedroncelli,