LUANDA, (Reuters) – Hosts Angola conceded four late goals to draw 4-4 with Mali yesterday in a dramatic opening match of the African Nations Cup overshadowed by the ambush on the Togo team bus.
Seydou Keita was on target twice as the Malians scored four times in the last 11 minutes of an extraordinary game to deflate the Angolans who had looked to be cruising to a comfortable victory.
Angola were in complete control after striker Flavio headed two goals in quick succession late in the first half. Gilberto added the third with a twice-taken penalty midway through the second and Manucho converted a second penalty to put them 4-0 up.
The tournament had been thrown into doubt after gunmen attacked the Togo team bus in the enclave of Cabinda on Friday, killing the driver and two members of the Togolese delegation.
Despite the attack, Sunday’s opener at the newly-built November 11 stadium went ahead in a carnival atmosphere which was temporarily broken when a minute’s silence was held for the victims before kickoff.
A scrappy opening half hour produced no hint of the drama to follow in the Group A match.
Angola went ahead after 36 minutes when Flavio was left unmarked at a free kick and took advantage by heading in from close range after Gilberto curled the ball into the area.
Six minutes later, Mabina sent over a cross from the right and Flavio easily beat his marker to the ball to head the second.
Despite a line-up boasting Real Madrid’s Mahamadou Diarra, Barcelona’s Keita and the experienced Frederic Kanoute in attack, Mali were being outplayed and fell further behind in the 67th minute
Gilberto was fouled in the area and took the penalty himself, scoring at the second attempt after his first effort was disallowed for encroachment. Manucho converted another penalty seven minutes later after Keita fouled Gilberto.
Keita started the fightback by scoring in a goalmouth scramble after goalkeeper Carlos Fernandes, barely tested until then, fumbled a corner.
Kanoute outjumped his marker to head the second in the 88th minute, Keita volleyed a third at the far post in stoppage time and Mustapha Yatabare completed the incredible fightback by scoring from a rebound after Fernandes had parried a close-range shot.