DOUALA, Cameroon, Jan 16 – Badra Ali Sangare’s mistake saw Sierra Leone earn a draw 2-2 with Ivory Coast and grab their second point on match day two of Group E standings at the Africa Cup of Nations in Douala on Sunday.
Ivory Coast seemed to be headed to a 2-1 win against the Leone Stars until keeper Sangare needlessly spilled the ball as he went to collect it in the third minute of added time.
Steven Caulker picked up and fed substitute Alhaji Kamara who did the rest to bundle the ball home and earn Sierra Leone a realistic chance of making it to the knockout phases.
Sangare had to go out injured, having seemingly landed awkwardly on his knee. With Ivory Coast having exhausted their substitutions, skipper Serge Aurier had to go in goal for the final few seconds of the match.
Arsenal striker Nicholas Pepe had struck Les Elephants back into the lead in the 65th minute, just 10 minutes after Sierra Leone’s Musa Noah Kamara had cancelled out Sebastian Haller’s first half goal.
Ivory Coast also had a penalty saved, when AC Milan midfielder Franck Kessie saw his first half spot kick kept out.
“Honestly I can’t explain that goal. You could have Jurgen Klopp or Pep Guardiola in charge and they wouldn’t be able to prepare for that,” said Ivory Coast coach Patrice Beaumelle, whose side must still face Algeria.
“I thought our performance was absolutely fine and we even played some really attractive stuff at times, but maybe this stadium doesn’t agree with us.”
Franck Kessie had an early penalty for the Elephants saved but Ajax star Sebastien Haller put them ahead and Musa Kamara made it 1-1 before Pepe struck.
Arsenal forward Pepe, Crystal Palace winger Wilfried Zaha and captain Aurier all came into the Ivorian line-up as Beaumelle made three changes for this west African derby.
Zaha was coming up against Sierra Leone centre-back Caulker –- the duo played in the same England team in a friendly in Sweden in 2012 before later declaring for their current national teams.
Caulker excelled in his side’s surprise 0-0 draw with Algeria on Tuesday but could only look on as the Ivorians won a 10th-minute penalty when Zaha was brought down by Umaru Bangura.
However, goalkeeper Mohamed Kamara had been the star player against Algeria and he produced a fine stop to deny Kessie.
Haller –- who netted 10 times in this season’s UEFA Champions League group stage –- showed Kessie how it should be done, controlling in the box and finishing with ease to equalise.
The lively Mohamed Buya Turay came close to equalising late in the first half for the Leone Stars but they did draw level in the 55th minute.
Musa Kamara justified his inclusion in the starting line-up by controlling the ball on the edge of the area and sending a ferocious shot high into the net.
His country’s first AFCON goal since 1996 was soon trumped by Pepe’s strike, only for the bizarre late scenes that allowed the outsiders to earn a point.
-Additional reporting by AFP