Hosts Cameroon have sealed their place in the last-eight of the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) with a 2-1 over Comoros in a match overshadowed by the death of at least eight people in a stampede outside Olembe stadium in the capital Yaounde.
Comoros put in a tremendous performance despite being without a recognised goalkeeper and having 10 men for most of the game.
Back-up option Ali Ahamada returned a negative result on Monday but was not authorised to play, forcing the team to deploy defender Chaker Alhadhur between the posts.
The task facing The Coelacanths was made all the more difficult seven minutes into the game when they lost their captain Nadjim Abdou, who was shown a red card after referee Bamlak Tessema Weyesa reviewed footage of his challenge on Moumi Ngamaleu.
Cameroon struggled to test Alhadhur but finally broke through in the 29th minute when Karl Toko Ekambi dug out a shot that found the bottom-left corner.
Vincent Aboubakar sold Alhadhur a dummy to finally add to Cameroon’s tally in the 70th minute, but Comoros rallied despite their numerical disadvantage and pulled one back through an incredible 35-yard free-kick from Youssouf M’Changama that sailed into the top-right corner.
It was too little too late for Comoros, though, with their sensational maiden AFCON appearance brought to a harsh end.
Monday’s stampede took place as crowds attempted to enter the stadium through its southern flank ahead of the clash between Cameroon and tournament debutants Comoros.
Although the stadium’s capacity of 60,000 has been limited by coronavirus regulations, the 60-percent cap is raised to 80 when the host team plays.
“Eight deaths were recorded, two women in their thirties, four men in their thirties, one child, one body taken away by the family,” according to a preliminary health ministry report obtained by AFP news agency.
Some 50 people were injured in the crush, including two people with multiple injures and two more with serious head wounds, the ministry said.
The Confederation of African Football released a statement saying it was “investigating the situation and trying to get more details on what transpired.”
Cameroon is scheduled to play another tournament debutant on Saturday in the quarterfinals in Douala after The Gambia beat Guinea 1-0 in the day’s other game after a goal from Musa Barrow in the 71st minute.
Guinea were playing without regular captain Naby Keita, who was suspended after picking up two yellow cards in the group stage.
The Gambia had Yusupha Njie sent off in the 87th minute for elbowing an opponent as they went up for a header, but Egyptian referee Amin Omar also gave Guinea’s Ibrahima Conte a second yellow in injury time.
Guinea did have a clear chance to equalise late on when it hit the post, then the crossbar, and had a goal-bound shot blocked in quick succession.