After the tragedy that saw two members of the Togolese delegation killed, a subdued African Cup of Nations kicked off in Luanda the Angolan capital. Despite the events that have preceded the competition proper the opening match provided a spectacle to go some way in lifting the gloom.
Angola versus Mali 4-4
Mali produced one of the biggest comebacks in African football history by coming back from four goals down to draw 4-4 with hosts Angola in the Africa Cup of Nations opener on Sunday in Luanda
The hosts were four goals up thanks to a first half brace from Saudi Arabia-based striker Flavio Amado and second half efforts from Gilberto and Manucho, before the Malians pulled of one of the greatest comebacks in African football in the last 12 minutes to draw equal.
The hosts cheered by an expectant crowd at the 50,000 capacity newly built November 11 Stadium in Angola's capital including President Jose Eduardo dos Santos and his First Lady started on high note with a performance that showed their ambitions to go their furthest ever in the competition.
Flavio set the stadium on fire with the opener on 35 minutes with a diving header from Gilberto’s free-kick before doubling the four minutes from half time with another header from Mabinda’s cross from the right, as the hosts managed a two goal lead at half time.
Mali resumed the second half more purposefully with captain Mahamadou Diarra and Frederic Kanoute both being rewarded with scoring opportunities in the opening minutes and having failed to make the most of the opportunities, their plight was further worsened moments later as the hosts scored two goals from the spot after left winger Gilberto was fouled on both occasions.
The Egyptian-based defender, who played under coach Jose Manuel likewise compatriot Flavio during the Portuguese’s tenure at Al-Ahly made it three on 64 minutes after Mamadou Bagayoko fouled him in the penalty.
Ten minutes on, Manucho scored the fourth goal also from the spot after Malian midfielder Seydou Keita was adjudged to have fouled Gilberto in the penalty area. Although replays showed minimal contact.
At this point, the points appeared destined for the Angolans only for a spirited comeback from the West African Eagles to change the complexion of the game.
Keita gave his side some glimmer of hope with his 79th minute effort from a goalmouth scramble before towering striker Frederic Kanoute made it 4-2 with a world class header from Adama Tamboura’s cross from the left three minutes from time.
Kanoute’s strike appeared late but Keita connected home beautifully two minutes into added time of four minutes restored some hope before substitute Moustapha Yattabare close range effort completed what was a legendary comeback.