Cameroon had 61 per cent of the possession and registered 23 shots, but an own-goal ultimately cost them victory over New Zealand in their Group B opener. Christ Mbondi fired the Indomitable Lions ahead on 32 minutes, before Serge Tchaha headed the ball into the wrong net soon afterwards.
The game got off to a slow start, with Kiwi defender Andrew Bevin heading the only chance of the opening exchanges narrowly wide. Cameroon came mightily close to taking the lead on 21 minutes. Yazid Atouba did brilliantly to tee up Franck Ohandza, but the latter’s close-range shot was denied by the post.Martin Ndtoungou’s team were not to be denied just past the half-hour mark, though. Ohandza raced into the box and was brought down by New Zealand goalkeeper Stefan Marinovic. Mbondi’s resulting spot-kick was saved, but the forward made amends by slotting home the rebound.
A Cameroonian also scored the second goal of the match. He did it, however, at the wrong end. Tchaha attempted to head a long ball back to his keeper, but the ball wrong-footed Jean Efala and dropped into his net.
Cameroon, as they had done in the first half, took control of the game following the restart. Two half-chances ensued, both headers from corners, within the first ten minutes, with Banana Yaya spurning the first and Ohandza the second.
It was one-way traffic and on 73 minutes Ohandza came very close to scoring, but his shot drifted just wide.
Mbondi did superbly to trick two opponents and work his way into the New Zealand box in the closing minutes, but his shot went straight into the arms of Marinovic. It proved the last chance of the game and when the final whistle blew, the players’ reactions told the picture: the Kiwis congratulating one another; the Cameroonians sinking miserably on to the turf.
The two teams will return to action in the same venue on Tuesday, when New Zealand take on Uruguay and Cameroon face Portugal.