By Andah John with agency report
The Indomitable Lions of Cameroon are African champions for the fifth time following a comeback 2-1 victory over Egypt in the final of the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) in Gabon.
Vincent Aboubakar was the hero as he came off the bench to score a stunning winner two minutes from time.
Arsenal midfielder Mohamed Elneny had given Egypt the lead in the first half and the Pharaohs looked on course for a record eighth Afcon crown.
But Nicolas Nkoulou, who had come off the bench in the first half, had something different in mind. He levelled matters for the Indomitable Lions before the hour mark and fellow substitute Aboubakar slammed in the winner in the 88th minute.
That sparked bedlam in a near-capacity crowd of more than 38,000 in Gabon’s capital, made up in its majority by Cameroonian supporters.
It is a fifth Cup of Nations crown for the Indomitable Lions. That’s their first since 2002, and the first time they have beaten Egypt in the final in three attempts.
Egypt fell just short on their return to the competition after a seven-year absence. And the defeat will be especially painful for their coach Hector Cuper.
Cuper final jinx
The Argentine was desperate to win a trophy after a career tainted by rotten luck in finals at club level. It included back-to-back defeats in the UEFA Champions League with Valencia at the start of the last decade.
The Pharaohs had signalled their intent within two minutes. A delightful cushioned pass by Mohamed Salah set up Abdallah El Said, but his firm shot was well held by Fabrice Ondoa in the Cameroon goal.
Egypt then opened the scoring midway through the first period with a superb team goal.
Amr Warda and Salah combined on the right and the latter played the ball into Elneny in space in the area. The midfielder took a touch to control and another to steady himself before blasting high past Ondoa at his near post.
It was a brilliant finish from the midfielder who was returning to the side after missing his team’s last two games due to a calf injury.
A quick look at history
The last Cup of Nations final to feature more than a single goal came in 2004, when Tunisia beat Morocco 2-1.
The last time a side came from behind to win the trophy was in 1994, when Nigeria beat Zambia 2-1.
Hugo Broos’s side also lost centre-back Adolphe Teikeu to an apparent groin injury. It happened just after the half-hour mark, with Nkoulou taking his place.
The Lyon defender has been out of favour at this tournament, only starting in Cameroon’s final group game against Gabon. But thrown on here through necessity, it was he who pulled his side level in the 59th minute.
Cameroon level matters
Egypt failed to fully clear their lines following a corner and captain Benjamin Moukandjo crossed from the left for Nkoulou, who soared above Ahmed Hegazy to head past Essam El Hadary from six yards.
Cameroon were revitalised by that goal. A partisan crowd lifted. But Jacques Zoua fired wastefully wide and Moukandjo blasted over from an excellent position as extra time began to seem inevitable.
Then Aboubakar, introduced at the start of the second half , controlled a long ball forward with his chest on the edge of the area. He poked it over the head of Ali Gabr and volleyed low past El Hadary in the Egyptian goal.