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Comoros's Chaker Alhadhur Heroic as Makeshift GK in AFCON Defeat to Cameroon

Chaker Alhadhur became a national hero for Comoros on Monday, even in defeat that resulted in elimination from the Africa Cup of Nations.

The left back, forced into playing goalkeeper due to an injury and positive COVID-19 tests to the island nation's rostered players at the position, was valiant in a 2–1 loss to host Cameroon in the round of 16. 

As if the task wasn't tall enough for Alhadhur and Comoros—whose manager was also forced to miss the match after testing positive for COVID-19—the side was reduced to 10 men after just seven minutes following a red card to captain and center back Nadjim Abdou. Nevertheless, the 132nd-ranked side in the world held out until the 29th minute and made a game of it late before bowing out.

Alhadhur made four saves and acquitted himself well, especially on one sequence in which he turned away consecutive shots to keep it a one-goal deficit at the time.

Alhadhur is said to be the first field player to feature at goalkeeper from the start of a match in a major international tournament. With Comoros No. 1 Salim Ben Boina out hurt and the two reserves unable to clear COVID-19 protocol, that left the side with no alternatives. Competition rules state that as long as a team has 11 players eligible, regardless of positions, it must play on.

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Even after conceding to Lyon's Karl Toko Ekambi for the opener and then to the competition's leading scorer, Vincent Aboubakar, in the 70th minute, Comoros made a game of it. Youssouf M'Changama's stunning free kick in the 81st minute brought the underdogs within a goal forcing Cameroon to sweat out the final minutes before securing advancement.

Alhadhur's heroics put an end to Comoros's run, which included a stunning ouster of Ghana from the competition following a memorable 3–2 triumph. It was the first time that Ghana failed to get out of the group stage since 2006. Alhadhur and Comoros caught the eye of African great and Ivory Coast legend Didier Drogba, who praised their effort.

Alhadhur was the second field player to go into goal in this tournament, with Ivory Coast forced into putting Serge Aurier in net for the final minutes of a group-stage game vs. Sierra Leone. Its goalkeeper was injured and forced off after the side had used up all of its substitutes.

Cameroon will play Gambia after the latter's 1–0 win over Guinea earlier Monday, which continued its storybook run in the tournament. Gambia is the 150th-ranked side in the world in the most recent FIFA ranking.

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