An epic start to the opening night of the CAN 2010.
The African Cup Of Nations 2010 opened up with great expectations but very little early excitement. Host nations Angola battled it out with Mali but the opening minutes didn’t see the explosion of attacking that the fans had expected from the hosts.
A carnival atmosphere rattled around the full 50.000 seater stadium as the fans sung and danced their way through a lackluster thirty minutes. Angola had the most of the game on paper but were doing very little with it whilst Mali looked incapable of even getting the ball.
The fans finally got what they came to see after thirty-six minutes though when Angola were awarded a free kick on the edge of the box, controversially given for what seemed like a fair tackle. Angola took advantage nevertheless as the ball was whipped across the penalty area and converted by Flavio who lost his defender, met the ball with his head and guided it into the centre of the goal – lifting the roof off the stadium.
Five minutes later the pint-sized Angolan doubled his tally, easing the pressure off the home team and giving them a 2-0 lead at the break; with the disappointing Mali yet to even have a shot on goal.
Mali started a little brighter in the second half and within minutes of the restart Diarra found himself just a few yards out with only the goalkeeper to beat, but his short range volley was blocked well by the Angolan shot-stopper who desperately kept the ball away from his goal. Kanoute tried his luck 90 seconds later but his shot swung wayward as Mali finally began to play some football.
Mali didn’t keep it up for long though and they soon sat back as Angola hit them with waves of attacks, as Manucho looked strong up front. On sixty-five minutes Angola were awarded a penalty which Gilberto converted, the referee ordered a retake but Gilberto kept his cool, picked his spot again and converted for the second time. This time the goal was given and at 3-0 Mali looked helpless to avoid defeat.
Mali’s night continued to worsen when Gilberto was brought down in the area on seventy-four minutes and the referee awarded Angola their second penalty. Powerful striker Manucho sent the goalkeeper the wrong way to calmly convert and give Angola a massive 4-0 lead.
With ten minutes to go Keita managed to poke in a consolation goal for Mali after a goal-line scramble, this was followed eight minutes later by Kanoute who scored the best goal of the game after smashing home a header from twelve yards to make it 4-2.
Angola looked slightly tired but still assured as they entered stoppage time, but with two minutes of added-on time to play Keita smashed home a third for Mali and gave them some last gasp hope. With seconds left Mali gave it their all, pushed up and continued to pump the ball into the box.
A deep cross from the hopefully Malians was met well in the box and passed across the goal, the fatigued Angola goalkeeper struggled to deal with it and the ball fell to Yattabare who broke Angolan hearts by tapping in the equalizer in the fifth minute of stoppage time. Completing an epic, unexpected and undeserved comeback.
With the final whistle blown the carnival atmosphere of the stadium turned into a heartbreaking silence. A fantastic start to the competition for the neutral fans but one that will leave the Angola team wondering what happened.