Angola left stunned by fightback

Angola 4 Mali 4

For 36 minutes last night in Luanda, almost nothing had happened, and after Ghana 2008, which featured more goals per game than any African Nations Cup since Ethiopia in 1976, there was a sense of regression. But then Flavio met Gilberto's free-kick with a stooping header,and the game was set on a bizarrely unpredictable course. With 11 minutes remaining, Angola were 4-0 up and cruising, but defensive sloppiness cost them, and they ended up drawing a remarkable game 4-4.

The tournament needed a spectacular start to help draw the attention back to the football after Friday's terrorist attack, and it got it, even if for much of the game it looked like being a stroll. Only after Carlos Fernandes, Angola's flamboyant goalkeeper had spilt a simple cross, leading to a scramble in which Seydou Keita prodded Mali's first goal, did the hosts begin to look even remotely vulnerable.

Flavio had been excellent, heading in Gilberto's free-kick and Mabina's cross to give Angola a 2-0 lead by half-time. With Mali struggling to deal with Gilberto's surges on the left, the wing-back twice won penalties, converting the first, awarded for a foul by Mamadou Bagayoko, himself, and then allowing Manucho to stroke in after he'd been fouled by Keita.

The Barcelona midfielder clearly felt he had won the ball, and he soon had his revenge. Frédi Kanouté headed a fine second on 88 minutes, and then Keita volleyed a third three minutes into injury time. By then, so complete was Angola's collapse, that the equaliser, from the substitute Mustapha Yatabare had come to seem inevitable. Manuel Jose, who took over as coach in May after a dismal World Cup qualifying campaign, was supposed to have made Angola reliable but dull, but there was no sign of that last night.

So bad were Angola in World Cup qualifying that they failed to reach the final 20 – had they not been hosts, in other words, they would not have qualified for the Nations Cup – and there remains a serious possibility that they might become the first hosts since Tunisia in 1994 to fail to make it through to the group stage.

The crowd, previously fervent and enthused, suddenly and shockingly fell silent. The sense was that their excitement had been born of relief, partly that it seemed they would get off to a winning start, and partly that the tournament was going ahead at all following the terrorist attacks that led to the withdrawal of Togo.

The opening ceremony was spectacular, but even amid the choreography and traditional dancing, and the celebration of Angola's flora and fauna, the booms of a series of firework displays called to mind the bloody events in Cabinda on Friday. It was hard to believe at least some of the crowd were not flinching as the explosions thudded round the arena.

Togo's pain should not be forgotten, but at least now the tournament has something else on which to focus.

Angola (3-3-2-2): Carlos Fernandes; Marques, Kali, Zuela; Mabina, Chara, Gilberto (Guilherme, 82); Dede (Djalma 25), Stelvio; Flavio (Cabungula, 84), Manucho

Mali (4-2-3-1): Sidibe; Berthe, Soumare, Diamoutene, Tamboura; T Bakaye (Fane, 57), M Diarra; Bagayoko (Yatabare, 77), M Traoré, Mobida(Keita, 35); Kanouté.

Referee: Essam Abdel Fatah (Egypt).

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment
Attenborough with the primates
tvWhy BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
News
Campbell: ‘Sometimes you have to be economical with the truth’
newsFormer spin doctor says MPs should study tactics of leading sports figures like José Mourinho
Sport
football
Life and Style
Agretti is often compared to its relative, samphire, though is closer in taste to spinach
food + drink
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Kelly Osbourne will play a flight attendant in Sharknado 2
people
News
Down-to-earth: Winstone isn't one for considering his 'legacy'
people
News
The dress can be seen in different colours
i100
Sport
Wes Brown is sent-off
football
Voices
Lance Corporal Joshua Leakey VC
voicesBeware of imitations, but the words of the soldier awarded the Victoria Cross were the real thing, says DJ Taylor
Life and Style
Alexander McQueen's AW 2009/10 collection during Paris Fashion Week
fashionMeet the collaborators who helped create the late designer’s notorious spectacles
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

It's not easy being Green

After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

Gorillas nearly missed

BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

The Downton Abbey effect

Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

China's wild panda numbers on the up

New census reveals 17% since 2003
Barbara Woodward: Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with the growing economic superpower

Our woman in Beijing builds a new relationship

Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with growing economic power
Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer. But the only British soldier to be awarded the Victoria Cross in Afghanistan has both

Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer

Beware of imitations, but the words of the soldier awarded the Victoria Cross were the real thing, says DJ Taylor
Alexander McQueen: The catwalk was a stage for the designer's astonishing and troubling vision

Alexander McQueen's astonishing vision

Ahead of a major retrospective, Alexander Fury talks to the collaborators who helped create the late designer's notorious spectacle
New BBC series savours half a century of food in Britain, from Vesta curries to nouvelle cuisine

Dinner through the decades

A new BBC series challenged Brandon Robshaw and his family to eat their way from the 1950s to the 1990s
Philippa Perry interview: The psychotherapist on McDonald's, fancy specs and meeting Grayson Perry on an evening course

Philippa Perry interview

The psychotherapist on McDonald's, fancy specs and meeting Grayson Perry on an evening course
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef recreates the exoticism of the Indonesian stir-fry

Bill Granger's Indonesian stir-fry recipes

Our chef was inspired by the south-east Asian cuisine he encountered as a teenager
Chelsea vs Tottenham: Harry Kane was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope

Harry Kane interview

The striker was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope
The Last Word: For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?

Michael Calvin's Last Word

For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?
HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?