Cameroon narrowly beat 10-man Comoros in the last 16 at the Africa Cup of Nations, despite playing against a side with an outfield player in goal.
Goals from Karl Toko Ekambi and Vincent Aboubakar gave the Indomitable Lions a 2-1 win after Nadjim Abdou’s early red.
But Comoros will take the headlines after giving the hosts a massive scare.
Youssouf M’Changama scored a stunning free-kick and Chaker Alhadhur, normally a left-back, produced a brilliant performance as stand-in goalkeeper.
Cameroon progress to face The Gambia in the quarter-finals on Saturday.
Cameroon handed early advantage
Debutants Comoros, ranked 132nd in the world, went into the game without a recognised keeper after Salim Ben Boina was ruled out through injury and Ali Ahamada and Moyadh Ousseini tested positive for Covid-19.
The Indian Ocean islanders hoped Ahamada might return after a negative test on the morning of the game, but organisers Confederation of African Football (CAF) said the 30-year-old had not fulfilled its protocols.
Facing the biggest game in their footballing history, the Coelacanthes’ hopes of causing a huge upset were dealt a seemingly disastrous blow when captain Abdou was sent off in the seventh minute after catching Moumi Ngamaleu on the ankle with his studs.
It was a tackle which seemed clumsy rather than malicious but the potential danger to Ngamaleu was there and after a video assistant referee review, Ethiopian referee Bamlak Tessema Weyesa sent off former Millwall man Abdou.
With coach Amir Abdou absent too because of coronavirus, Comoros were already at a substantial disadvantage with Alhadhur in goal and, after the dismissal, a raucous Olembe Stadium in Yaounde fully expected Cameroon to go on and score a hatful.
But Toni Conceicao’s side were simply never able to impose themselves in the face of a tremendous Comoran display, and it was nearly 25 minutes later that Cameroon finally used their numerical advantage to good effect when Toko Ekambi fired home the opener after an unselfish ball from Aboubakar.
Home captain Aboubakar seemed to have made the game safe for the hosts with 20 minutes to go, when he ran onto a brilliant pass from midfield and placed the ball past Alhadhur for his sixth goal of the tournament.
Unlikely keeper Alhadhur impresses
Stand-in keeper Alhadhur, who plays in the French second tier for Ajaccio, had an evening to remember and did not seem out of place in goal, at one point charging out to the edge of his area to head clear.
Early in the second half he made a strong save from Aboubakar’s header and then a quickfire double stop to keep out Aboubakar’s low shot and Ngamaleu’s follow-up.
His efforts brought broad smiles to the faces of his team-mates and he was congratulated at full-time by his opposite number Andre Onana.
Onana himself had much more to do than he should have, given the 82-place difference between the sides in the rankings and Abdou’s sending-off.
He made a number of important stops to maintain his side’s lead but there was nothing whatsoever he could do about M’Changama’s wonder strike, which will be a contender for goal of the tournament.
Comoros won a free-kick from more than 35 yards out with nine minutes to go and M’Changama – who had a spell with Oldham Athletic in 2012 – stepped up and struck a beautiful finish into the top left-hand corner. It was no more than the islanders deserved for their committed and brave display.