Jimmy Abdou was sent off after seven minutes as luckless Comoros, minus a recognised goalkeeper due to injury and coronavirus, saw their fairytale Africa Cup of Nations run end with a 2-1 defeat to hosts Cameroon.
Comoros, ranked 132 in the world, were without the injured Salim Ben Boina for the round-of-16 tie in Yaounde while fellow goalkeepers Ali Ahamada and Moyadh Ousseini had both tested positive for Covid-19.
Ajaccio’s 5ft 8in left-back Chaker Alhadhur took over in goal for a Comoros side who had also lost several outfield players and coach Amir Abdou to coronavirus.
Karl Toko Ekambi and Vincent Aboubakar were on target as Cameroon secured a quarter-final date with Gambia, but it was not without concern as Youssouf M’Changama thundered home a 30-yard free-kick nine minutes from time.
Alhadhur had barely touched the ball when Abdou received his marching orders for stepping on the back of Moumi Ngamaleu’s ankle.
The former Plymouth and Millwall midfielder was banished after Ethiopian referee Bamlak Tessema Weyesa was advised to go to the VAR monitor.
Comoros, who had booked a last-16 place by beating four-time African champions Ghana, refused to capitulate and Cameroon keeper Andre Onana made a superb double save from Ahmed Mogni and Mohamed Youssouf.
Toko Ekambi – with Cameroon’s only effort on target in the first half – broke the deadlock after 29 minutes by finding the bottom corner of Alhadhur’s net.
Alhadhur blocked an Aboubakar header at the start of the second half with his legs, before producing a smart double stop to thwart the former Porto striker and Ngamaleu.
Aboubakar, the tournament’s top scorer, slotted home his sixth goal in four games after 70 minutes, but M’Changama gave brave Comoros late hope with the sweetest of strikes.
Gambia had upset Guinea earlier with a 1-0 victory in Bafoussam.
Musa Barrow showed excellent control in the penalty area before sweeping home Gambia’s 71st-minute winner.
Guinea, who were without suspended Liverpool midfielder Naby Keita, struck the woodwork twice in the final seconds.
Gambia had substitute Yusupha Njie sent off four minutes from time for two bookable offences before Guinea’s Ibrahima Conte also saw red in the final seconds.