Vincent Aboubakar came off the bench to score a late goal to steer Cameroon to a 2-1 victory over Egypt in the final of the Gabon 2017 Africa Cup of Nations in Libreville on Sunday.
The victory helped the Indomitable Lions seal a fifth African title, having won the tournament in 1984, 1988, 2000, 2002. Cameroon, who denied the Egyptians a chance to win their eighth African title, will host the 2019 edition of the finals. The reigning champions also qualified for the 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup in Russia following their victory over Egypt at Stade de l’Amitie in Libreville.
Arsenal midfielder Mohamed Elneny had given Egypt the lead midway through the first half and the Pharaohs looked to be on course to win the crown in their first appearance at the tournament since 2010.
But Nicolas Nkoulou, who had come off the bench in the first half, headed in the equaliser just before the hour mark and his 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, according to AFP.
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.
Egypt have been derided at times for a defensive approach under Cuper, but they played their part in this rarest of things — a genuinely entertaining final.
The Pharaohs had signalled their intent within two minutes as 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 taking 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.
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 just after the half-hour mark, with Nkoulou taking his place.
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.