Gritty Syria hold Cameroon

African sides coach blames poor pitch conditions for lacklustre show

Syria and Cameroon played their hearts out in an absorbing 2-2 draw in the Nehru Cup football tournament at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium here on Friday.

Playing in front of empty galleries, Cameroon twice took the lead in the match only to relinquish it later.

The opening two goals of the match were scored through headers -- Kingue Mpondo giving Cameroon the lead in the 17th minute and Alaa Alshbbli finding the equaliser in the 42nd minute. Ebanga Bertin (55th) then put Cameroon ahead again but Syria evened out through Oday Jaffal (80th) to stun the African nation.

In the action-packed first half, Cameroon dominated initially with crisp passing and fine moves. The tackles though were rough and the rising tempers were underlined by a heated exchange between Came­roon’s Ousmila Baba and Syria’s Alshbbli.

A yellow card to Syria's Ahmed Alsalih for pulling down Ebanga Bertin gave Cameroon a corner kick.

Bertin's took the kick and Mpondo, who was right in front of the goal mouth, lunged for a low but powerful header that found the back of the net.

The early setback galvanised the Syrians, who were facing a must-win situation. They pressed with urgency, making swift moves and breaking their way through the mid-field to trouble Cameroon.

Syria's Ali Ghlioum narrowly missed from a close range before Alshbbli found the equaliser, heading the ball home from Ouday Abduljaffal's free-kick at the stroke of halftime.

Syria took the fight to Cameroon in the second half. But Syrian goalkeeper Mosab Balhous’s run-in with Kologny Vigny Merimeof while attempting to collect the ball inside the box resulted in a penalty. Bertin converted successfully to give Cameroon a 2-1 lead.

The Syrians then picked their pace up, relentlessly raiding the rival defence. They struck back 25 minute later through  Jaffal who, in a well-crafted piece, scored through a volley.

Cameroon coach Emmanuel Bosso blamed the poor condition of the pitch for their loss. “The pitch condition was bad. It didn’t allow us to play our natural game. Even in Cameroon the pitch is not that bad. We have to work hard for our next match,” Bosso said.

Syrian assistant coach Anas Makhlous said his boys did well to draw with Cameroon. “We missed a lot of chances but we did well to come back. We are hopeful that we will win our remaining matches,” he said.

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