Cape Town - Mali and Cameroon played to a 1-1 draw in their opening Group D match at the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations in Malabo on Tuesday night.
After a goalless first half, the Eagles broke the deadlock through Sambou Yatabare, but Ambroise Oyongo netted an equaliser for the Indomitable Lions to see the points shared.
The result leaves all four teams level on one point in Group D, as the earlier match between Ivory Coast and Guinea also ended in a 1-1 draw.
Mali looked the stronger team in the opening half of the match and Cameroon needed goalkeeper Fabrice Ondoa to pull off several fine saves to keep them in the game.
The 19-year-old shot-stopper did exceptionally well to turn away a low shot from the dangerous Bakary Sakho in the 10th minute, and he denied the left winger again just before the half hour mark.
The Eagles, with Sakho routinely beating his fullback down the left and Seydou Keita controlling the midfield, certainly looked the likelier scorers. However, their goalkeeper Soumbeila Diakite did pull off one excellent save in the 18th minute, tipping over a looping header from Cameroon’s Vincent Aboubakar.
Cameroon upped their game in the second half and began to assert themselves. Just past the hour mark they should have broken the deadlock when Benjamin Moukandjo broke free down the right of the penalty area, but his effort flashed across goal before Aboubakar could get a touch.
Yet Mali regained the momentum and duly broke the deadlock with just under 20 minutes to play. Keita’s free kick passed through a crowded penalty area before being controlled by Sambou Yatabare, who proceeded to fire home a low volley to put the Eagles 1-0 up.
Their lead last only until the 84th minute. Raoul Loe played what looked a hopeful long ball into the Mali box, but right-back Ambroise Oyongo made a great run to latch onto the ball, control it and then calmly steer a shot past Diakite to make it 1-1.
The next round of Group D matches on Saturday sees Mali tackle Ivory Coast, while Cameroon will come up against Guinea.