Hosts Cameroon came from behind with two penalties in the space of eight minutes at the end of the first half to beat Burkina Faso 2-1 in the opening game of the Africa Cup of Nations
Captain Vincent Aboubakar scored both penalties, calmly slotting the first to the right side of the goal and the second to the left to complete a comeback that left home fans sighing with relief.
Cameroon had endured a three-year delay to host the tournament after being stripped of the 2019 edition and then seeing their 2021 ambitions delayed a year because of the coronavirus pandemic.
It seemed the wait would not be worth it when Gustavo Sangare volleyed Burkina Faso into the lead in the 24th minute at Olembe Stadium in Yaounde.
Sangare scored after Burkina Faso had seen a header cleared off the line and then hit the crossbar in the same move.
But the visitors lost the lead with two reckless pieces of defending at the end of the first half.
Aston Villa’s Bertrand Traore barged into Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa to give Cameroon their first penalty, which was only confirmed after referee Mustapha Ghorbal of Algeria consulted VAR.
Soon after, Issoufou Dayo mis-timed a sliding tackle to foul Nouhou Tolo, and Aboubakar scored from the spot again three minutes into first-half injury-time.
VAR was in the spotlight again in the second half when there was a long review to disallow a third goal for Cameroon for offside.
The Africa Cup of Nations officially started with a short opening ceremony a few hours earlier at Olembe Stadium. The continent’s football showpiece will be played under the shadow of the coronavirus pandemic and amid a global surge in cases.
FIFA president Gianni Infantino attended the opening ceremony, as did 88-year-old Cameroon president Paul Biya, who has led the Central African country since 1982.
Cameroon face Ethiopia at the Olembe Stadium on Thursday at 4pm, live on Sky Sports Football.
In the other Group A fixture, Burkina Faso take on Cape Verde at 7pm, live on Sky Sports Football.
Sky Sports to show AFCON live
The Africa Cup of Nations tournament will be broadcast live on Sky Sports in January and February.
The tournament, originally scheduled to be played in June and July 2021, will be played in Cameroon between January 9 and February 6, 2022, with Sky Sports showing all 52 games live.