The 2021 African Cup of Nations finally burst into life as five-time winners and defending champions Cameroon came from behind to beat Ethiopia 4-1. Captain Vincent Aboubakar scored twice, taking his tally for the tournament to four, to ensure the hosts will progress from Group A.
The opening exchanges were action-packed. Ethiopia silenced the partisan home crowd four minutes in when Dawa Hotessa rounded off a beautiful passing move to open the scoring, but Cameroon hit back immediately, levelling as Karl Toko Ekambi met Collins Fai’s cross after Aboubakar’s fierce shot was saved.
In a tournament that has so far struggled for on-the-pitch quality, there was no shortage of excitement at either end in this contest. Both teams were intent on attacking and, before the interval, the best chances fell to Ethiopia, with Abubeker Nasir dragging one effort wide and Amanuel Gebremichael seeing another saved. Nicolas Moumi Ngamaleu then had a goal ruled out for offside at the other end before Ekambi clattered the woodwork with a towering header.
The second half started in a similar vein to the first; end to end and with little defending of note. After Hotessa shot high over the bar, it was all Cameroon, and they took the lead for the first time on 53 minutes as Aboubakar powerfully headed home from another Fai cross. 90 seconds later, the striker put the game out of sight by converting from close-range.
By this point, Ethiopia, qualifiers for only the second time since 1982, were all over the place as a rampant Cameroon looked to exploit the flanks. Ekambi forced two saves out of Teklemariam Shanko, but he would not be denied a third time, dropping his shoulder to dance past two defenders before firing into the bottom corner.
The result leaves the ‘Indomitable Lions’ top of Group A with six points from two games, but Ethiopia, who missed a sitter through substitute Bezabih Melayu late on, are all but out after successive defeats.