Burkina Faso, flying high
* As hosts Cameroun stop Gambia
Dango Aboubacar Ouattara’s goal on the stroke of halftime was enough for Burkina Faso to beat Tunisia 1-0 and progress to the semifinals of the TotalEnergies Africa Cup of Nations, Cameroun 2021 while the hosts beat Gambia 2-0.
Burkina Faso’s Dango Ouattara, who was sent off in the closing stages, scored on the stroke of halftime to give coach Kamou Malo’s side the victory against the Carthage Eagles of Tunisia.
The Stallions, who were without their talisman and captain Bertrand Traore, started brightly at the Omnisports Roumde stadium in Garoua — controlling possession in the opening exchanges with Steeve Yago and Ibrahim Toure pulling the strings in midfield.
Cyrille Bayala had the first opening of the closely contested match when he found space on the left to shoot straight at Bechir Said in the Tunisian goal midway through the first half.
The Carthage Eagles were denied by Koffi on 26 minutes when he dived to his left to save Wahbi Khazri’s fierce free kick.
The two sides continue to cancel each other in midfield while they try to break on the counter and a defensive mistake in the Burkinabe box almost allowed Jaziri to score when he charged down Soumaila Ouattara.
Dango broke the deadlock with a neat finish from a swift counter attack. Ibrahim Toure played him through on goal and he cut inside before firing past Bechir.
The Tunisians returned after the break with more determination as they search for the equaliser.
Kouakou Koffi pulled another brilliant save from a set piece to keep his lead. Substitute Ali Maaloul struck a sumptuous strike but Koffi was equal to it.
The Stallions were reduced to 10 men late on when goal scorer Dango was sent off for swinging an arm on a Tunisian defender.
The Burkinabe held on to progress to the semifinals of the tournament and they will meet the winner between Senegal and Equatorial Guinea, set for Sunday evening.
Meanwhile, the Indomitable Lions stopped Gambia 2-0 to book a semifinal date against Sunday evening quarterfinal between Morocco and Egypt.
After a goalless first half, the hosts — 5-time AFCON winners —returned charged and determined to get the goals.
The tournament’s leading scorer Vincent Aboubakar and Nicolas Moumi Ngamaleu had their shots blocked for Cameroon, while Gambia’s James Gomez also had his attempts stopped in the first half.
But it was Karl Toko Ekambi who netted a brace early in the second half to make sure the Indomitable Lions roar into the semi final stage.
Ekambi made it 1-0 after 50 minutes with a well timed header when Gambian defenders failed to react quickly to stop Ngran Suiru Fai Collins from crossing the ball for Ekambi to score.
The Gambian technical bench replaced star player Modou Barrow with Pa Modou Jagne after 55 minutes, but the Indomitable Lions instead pushed forward and made it 2-0 after 57 minutes. Ekambi again gave the Gambian goalkeeper Baboucarr Gaye no chance.
Cameroon continued to dominate play in the midfield and on the wings causing problems for the Gambian team.
The two-goal scorer Karl Toko-Ekambi was named Man of the Match said after the match that Gambia were a difficult team to play against “but we never gave up even when we struggled in first half”.
“We kept working and we got the crack. It’s good, everyone has a role to play in this team. In 2017, I played a lot less, it’s not the case today, it’s the victory at the end that is the most important.
“We are a family, the group lives well. The group prefers to focus on the present, this competition and not focus on the past with what happened in 1972, we want to write our own history.”
His coach, Toni Conceiçao said: “I am satisfied with my players who respected the instructions to go and win the match despite the missed opportunities in the first period.
“In addition to the victory, it was our match where the attack-defense balance was the most respected. I am very happy with our production against a great team from Gambia.
“Regarding the semi-finals, what worries me the most is to see my players to recover, it was a physically demanding match. We will rest and analyze our next opponent and put the strategy in place. I’m really happy with my players.
Gambia coach Tom Saintfiet conceded that they against a great team, saying: “I am proud of my players, in the tournament but also in this match — we were beaten by the future champions of Africa.
“We made mistakes that we paid for in cash, that’s also the high level. There were tears in the locker room but Gambia and its players can be proud of the course, we will bounce back very quickly and return to the front of the stage.”