Despite playing with an outfield player as a goalkeeper and reduced to 10 men after just seven minutes, Comoros drew the admiration of many after taking hosts Cameroon toe to toe, before losing 2-1 in the Africa Cup of Nations round of 16.
Cameroon progress to the quarter finals where they face off with other debutants Gambia, but Comoros will leave Yaounde with their heads held high after their brave performance.
Karl Toko Ekambi and skipper Vincent Aboubakar scored for Cameroon, with Comoros scoring their consolation via a brilliant Youssouf M’Changama freekick.
The island nation who are making their debut in the AFCON had to play with left back Chaker Alhadhur in goal after their two reserve keepers were ruled out with positive COVID-19 cases and first choice Ben Boina injured.
Ali Ahamada, one of their two reserve keepers had tested negative earlier on, but a CAF rule that stipulates a five-day isolation period barred him.
It went from bad to worse for the Coelacanths as skipper Nadjim Abdou was sent off after just seven minutes, leaving them with a mountain to climb.
But even with a man down and a left back as goalkeeper, Comoros were not about to go down without a fight.
Knowing too well that they had a chance at goal with the left back manning between the sticks, Cameroon were firing on sight and they had a chance after 11 minutes when Ekambi nodded the ball down for Aboubakar at the edge of the box, but the skipper’s shot on the half volley went wide.
Six minutes later, Ekambi had a go at goal himself when he took on a daunting run on the right, but his eventual shot went wide.
Cameroon had pushed Comoros into their own half, as the islanders sought to suck in the pressure and hit on the counter.
The home side finally broke the deadlock in the 29th minute when Ekambi took on a shot inside the box after being set up by Aboubakar leaving the stand-in keeper Alhadhur with no chance.
Even after going down, Comoros showed bravery by taking on the chances whenever they broke into the Cameroonian half.
In the 32nd minute, Andre Onana made a double save to deny Comoros, first stretching to his left to palm away a shot from Ahmed Mogni before rising again to block Mohamed Youssouf’s effort on the rebound with his feet.
In the second half, Cameroon continued prodding in the Comoros half and Alhadhur made a brilliant double save in the 53rd minute, first unconventionally diving to his left to punch away Aboubakar’s effort before recovering to punch away the rebound from Nicolas Ngamaleu.
But, he ultimately gave in for the second goal in the 69th minute when Aboubakar scored his sixth of the tournament, with an easy finish from close range after being put through on goal by Martin Hongla.
Much to the delight of their fans who had gathered at a corner of the stadium, Comoros never gave up.
Onana was kept working and in the 73rd minute, substitute Abdallah Ali forced the Inter Milan new signing to a smart save with a snap shot from the right.
In the 78th minute, Onana had to be hawkeyed to make another wonderful reflex save to keep out El Fardou Ben Mohamed’s snap shot from inside the box.
Comoros finally got a goal in the 81st minute when M’Changama fired a brilliant freekick from almost 40 yards out, the ball coming with pace and power to completely beat Onana.
On the other end, Alhadhur was making another save, this time fisting away Hongla’s shot from distance.
With the clock ticking and nothing to lose, Comoros threw everything for an equalizer, but they couldn’t conjure a memorable comeback to force the game into extra time.