Mozambique held Benin to a 2-2 draw on Tuesday night to deny the west Africans their first-ever victory at the CAF Africa Cup of Nations.
Angola 2010 is Benin's fourth appearance at the African finals after they debuted in the competition at the 2004 edition in Tunisia and had they defended an early two-goal lead, they would have been celebrating their inaugural victory in the tournament.
Champions Egypt, who beat Nigeria earlier, lead Group C with three points, with Benin and Mozambique tied for second following this thrilling draw. Nigeria, beaten 3-1 by the defending champions, are at the foot of the table.
Benin coach, Michel Dessuyer, said he now has to look forward to his team's next Group C match against neighbours Nigeria on Saturday. "I have to accept this result even though we lost a 2-0 lead. We failed to defend our advantage and now we have to focus on the next match against Nigeria," said the French coach.
His Mozambican counterpart, Mart Nooij, praised his team for fighting back. "The first 20 minutes was disastrous for us. After a good prepration, the players went into the game like a bull chasing after a red flag, but we came back in the second half and played a very wonderful game," said the Dutchman.
In an open, entertaining contest, the Squirrels of Benin raced into a two-goal lead after just 20 minutes with a penalty goal by former youth standout Razak Omotoyossi and an own goal by Mozambique defender Dario Khan. The spot kick was awarded after the robust Omotoyossi was brought down inside the box by goalkeeper Joao Rafael on his way to goal. The Metz striker dusted himself off to tuck the ball home from the penalty spot in the 14th minute.
The Nigerian-born striker was also involved in the second goal as he drove into the Mozambique area and in the confusion that ensued, Khan put the ball through his own goal on 20 minutes. However, Almiro Lobo reduced the deficit in the 29th minute when he headed home from inside the box after goalkeeper Yoann Djidonou failed to deal with a corner and left the Benin defence in all sorts of bother.
Before all these goals, the Mambas of Mozambique got a chance as early as the 11th minute to take the lead, but their most experienced player and skipper, Manuel Bucuane aka Tiko Tiko, failed to connect from inside the box.
To the credit of Mozambique, they did not allow Benin's early advantage to subdue their attacking instincts as they kept going at their opponents to the delight of the packed 35,000-capacity Ombaka Stadium as the locals threw their support behind their fellow Portuguese-speaking country.
Right from the restart, Omotoyossi would have again got on the score sheet but he lost his footing at the crucial moment inside the six-yard box with goalkeeper Rafael again looking very shaky and unsure of himself. However, it was Mozambique who scored again in the 54th minute when Goncalves Fumo netted the equaliser after a quick counter-attack caught the Benin goalkeeper out of position.
Benin fought back for a winner with Paris Saint Germain star Stephane Sessegnon, Omotoyossi and Guingamp midfielder Muri Ogounbiyi, who was a major injury doubt for this encounter after he suffered a thigh strain in training, prompting their attacks.
In the 70th minute, Tiko Tiko fired home a pile drive which missed narrowly, but it was the fumbling goalkeeper Rafael, who would have gifted Benin the match winner in the 85th minute when he appeared to have saved off the feet of Mickael Pote only to lose the ball in spectacular fashion moments later.