Islam Slimani scored the only goal of the game as Algeria defeated Cameroon in a CAF Third Round 2022 World Cup qualifier at the Japoma Stadium in Douala on Friday night.
The Desert Foxes put in a masterful display of defensive football, holding the Indomitable Lions at bay and claiming victory thanks to a brilliant header from their attacking spearhead late in the first half.
The win not only takes Algeria to the verge of qualification for the World Cup, but also exorcises the ghosts of their awful Africa Cup of Nations campaign in Cameroon earlier this year.
Cameroon started strongly and threatened through Michael Ngadeu, Karl Toko Ekambi and Vincent Aboubakar inside the opening 10 minutes, though only one effort brought Algeria goalkeeper Rais M’Bolhi into action.
Algeria almost claimed the lead against the run of play on 13 minutes when Islam Slimani raced free into the right of the penalty area and fired a powerful effort on target, only for Cameroon goalkeeper Andre Onana to make a superb save.
Perhaps stung by that chance for their opponents, the Indomitable Lions tightened up their approach and looked for more control of possession in midfield, with Algeria happy to sit back and look to strike either on the counter attack or via set pieces.
And it was via the latter method that the Desert Foxes broke the deadlock on 41 minutes. Youcef Belaili played a perfectly-flighted cross from a free kick on the left flank and Slimani powered home a header – via the right hand of Onana and the underside of the crossbar – to make it 1-0 to the visitors.
The North Africans were able to see out the remainder of the first half and go into the interval with a morale-boosting advantage, while the hosts opened the second stanza with a pair of changes, as Kevin Soni and Leandre Tawamba replaced Vincent Aboubakar and Martin Hongla.
Tawamba gave notice of his potency on 61 minutes with a fine piece of control of the edge of the box before turning his defender and getting away a shot, but his low effort lacked the pace to trouble M’Bolhi.
Algeria generally succeeded in breaking up the play and ensuring that Cameroon were never able to build up any momentum in their efforts to get back in the game, and the visitors nearly succeeded in claiming a second goal from a set piece when a 78th minute corner kick ended with Ramy Bensebaini directing an effort just wide.
Cameroon’s Toko Ekambi looked to level the game with just under 10 minutes of regulation time remaining, but his low shot from the edge of the box was easily smothered by M’Bolhi.
The Indomitable Lions looked to make the most of 11 minutes of injury time (the lengthy addition was mostly down to a floodlight failure in the corner of the ground early in the second half) but Algeria held firm to secure an away victory which makes them clear favourites to secure qualification for Qatar 2022.
The teams will meet again for the return leg in Blida on the evening of Tuesday 29 March.