Nehru Cup: Syria come back twice against Cameroon
New Delhi, Aug 24 (IANS) Syria came back twice to draw their Nehru Cup football tournament match against the "The Indomitable Lions" Cameroon 2-2 at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium here Friday.
Luck played a key role for the African giants as Syria were wasteful in front of the goalmouth.
Cameroon led twice in the game through Kingue Mpondo (17th) and Ebanga Bertin (55th) but their lead was pegged back by Alaa Alshbli (42nd) and Ouday Abduljaffal (80th).
The game was physical but very open and exciting as both teams looked for the victory instead of defending deep. The FIFA rankings seemed to have no bearing as the match was a closely fought affair.
Both sides have sent their second-string sides and Cameroon, who are ranked 59th to Syria's ranking of 147, hardly looked the superior side.
One would have expected Cameroon, with their greater physical presence, to stamp their authority on the game but Syria put in a spirited performance, coming back twice in the game.
Pitch conditions were again difficult, preventing either team to keep the ball on the ground.
Cameroon coach Emmanuel Bosso also complained in length about the poor conditions blaming it for his side's lacklustre performance.
"The pitch conditions were not favourable for our style of play. We were just not able to stick to our plans and it became a very difficult match. Even in Cameroon the pitch is not so bad," said Bosso.
Syrian assistant coach Anas Makhlouf said that his team were still in with a chance to qualify for the finals and was happy with his team's performance.
"Our team did really well. We could have won the game but we missed a lot of chances," he said.
"Our players gave it everything they had. If we win our next two games we can still get into the finals."
The Africans started aggressively but Syria clawed their way back into the game.
Cameroon went ahead in the 17th minute. Ebanga Bertin made Syria goalkeeper pull off a smart save from a 25-yard free-kick and from the ensuing flag-kick from Ebanga, Mpondo nodded in with a clinical header.
Syria had a few chances but failed to capitalise on them. They came close to equalizing in the 22nd minute, but Mardek Mardkiyan failed to beat Cameroon goalkeeper Ngome Lawrence in a one-one situation.
However, star Syrian player Alaa Alshbli bailed out his team as he headed the ball into the back of the net from Ouday Abduljaffal's free-kick in the 42nd minute.
After the change of ends, both sides looked for the lead but Cameroon showed more urgency. The pitch only worsened as the game progressed.
It was the Africans though who again took the initiative in the 55th minute. Kologny Vigny Merime of Cameroon went one on one with the keeper, Mosab Balhous, but was brought down inside the box.
The referee awarded a debatable penalty and Ebanga made no mistake from the spot, thudding the ball into the top-right corner.
Syria, one goal down, piled men forward in search of the equalizer. They kept the ball well and put the Cameroon pressure under tremendous pressure. Like in the match against India, which they lost 1-2, they failed to take chances.
A sublime right-foot volley from Abduljaffal in the 80th minute brought the West Asians back into the fray.
Syria could have well taken the lead but the Cameroon defence held on. In the last few minutes of the game, Cameroon streamed men forward in search of the lead but to no avail.
Syria are yet to win a game while India, the Maldives and Cameroon have one victory each to their name. Nepal are the only team who are yet to open their account.
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