ABIDJAN, Ivory Coast (AP) — Christopher Wooh was the last player to score in an extraordinary finale as Cameroon defeated Gambia 3-2 to save their Africa Cup of Nations campaign on Tuesday, when Ghana and Algeria were both eliminated.
Cameroon, which had been in danger of an early exit, clinched their place in the knockout stage as runner-up in Group C as they scored more goals than Guinea, which lost 2-0 to group winner Senegal.
Gambia defender Muhammed Sanneh stunned the Cameroon players in stoppage time when he scored what would have been the fourth goal in eight minutes for 3-3, but a VAR check showed he used his hand. A draw would have eliminated both teams.
“There are a lot of surprises this year, but we had confidence in ourselves,” said Georges-Kévin Nkoudou, who struck the crossbar in the first half for Cameroon. “You know that things can happen very quickly and that’s what happened. I’ve no more words, I don’t know what to say. It’s incredible.”
Gambia had put themselves in contention for the last 16 by coming from behind to take a 2-1 lead when Ebrima Colley scored with just five minutes of normal time remaining.
Then an own goal two minutes later from James Gomez, who was trying to cut out a cross, drew Cameroon level, and Wooh scored what proved to be winner with a header from a corner in the first minute of stoppage time.
“We just won a final, a great match against a very, very good team who gave everything, who gave their all. Bravo to them, and congratulations to my teammates who believed in this victory despite everything,” Cameroon captain André-Frank Zambo Anguissa said.
Defending champion Senegal finished with a perfect nine points from three games, followed by Cameroon and Guinea on four, with Gambia finishing bottom of the group with none despite all the excitement the Scorpions had brought to the tournament.
Gambia coach Tom Saintfiet resigned after the game.
Cameroon counterpart Rigobert Song dropped Manchester United goalkeeper André Onana to the bench in favour of Onana’s cousin, Fabrice Ondoa. Onana missed Cameroon’s first game after playing for United the day before, then produced a shaky performance in their second.
Goals from Abdoulaye Seck and Iliman Ndiaye were enough for Senegal to maintain their perfect start to their title defense with another commanding performance in Yamoussoukro.
Cameroon’s win also eliminated Ghana, which had been hoping to still somehow finish as one of the four best third-place finishers. That’s no longer possible for the Black Stars with just two points.
The Ghana Football Association later fired Chris Hughton as coach. His team missed its chance to progress Monday when it conceded two goals in stoppage time to draw with Mozambique 2-2.
ALGERIA OUT, MAURITANIA ADVANCE
Mauritania eliminated two-time champion Algeria by winning their first-ever Africa Cup game to reach the last 16.
Mohamed Dellahi Yali’s first-half strike helped Mauritania win 1-0 and left the Desert Foxes contemplating their second straight group-stage exit.
Substitute Pape Ibnou Ba missed a great chance to seal it late when he struck the crossbar with goal at his mercy, but the Lions of Chinguetti survived 11 minutes of stoppage time to see out their first win in their third participation in the tournament.
“We suffered. We knew that this team had great individual quality (but) we were solid. We scored from one situation and we fought, we showed great desire, and I’m very proud, very proud of what we did,” Mauritania coach Amir Abdou said.
His team’s win was enough to finish among the four best third-place finishers.
Goals from Mabululu and Zine earned Angola the top spot in Group D with a 2-0 win over Burkina Faso. Both teams had already qualified for the last 16.