Burundi produced a stunning comeback to overturn a two-goal deficit in a thrilling 3-3 draw against Niger in Group B of the Total U-20 Africa Cup of Nations at the Stade General Seyni Kountche in Niamey.
The East Africans found themselves behind in the 17 minutes when Selemani Moustafa impeded Niger's Abdoul Kairou in the box before Issah Salou converted from the spot to give the young Mena an early advantage.
Niger doubled their lead four minutes before the break through Abdoul Kairou who pounced on a loose ball just outside the area to lift it over the helpless keeper who had denied Boubacar Marou from close range.
The Burundi despite going down 2-0 continue to attack and won a penalty on the stroke of half time when Issaka Souley fouled Kanakimana in the area and Saidi Irakoze dispatched the resulting spot kick to reduce the deficit going into the break.
Niger returned from the locker room with confidence and the strong home crowd behind them increased their lead to 3-1 through midfielder Amadou Sabo's long range screamer ten minutes into the second period.
Burundi introduced fresh legs to overturn the deficit and they made their intentions known when speedy winger Kanakimana beat a couple of challenges on the left cutting into to delivery cross which was blocked Saidi Irakoze fired over with the goal at his mercy.
Niger couldn't sustain the pressing from the Burundian players as they lose possession in their own half whiles Burundi continue pile pressure.
Substitute Jules Ulimwengu punished the Nigerien defense when he headed in a corner at the back post where was unmarked to make it 3-2.
Kanakimana Bienvenue completed the comeback three minutes later when Niger's captain Amadou Darenkoum lost possession in the penalty area where Kanakimana fired into the roof of the next to snatch an important for Burundi.
POST MATCH REACTIONS
Joslin Bipfubusa (Head Coach, Burundi)
"I'm happy with the result because we played a good game and a point is good going into our game against South Africa."
"Our group is difficult because there are four countries determined to qualify for the semi-finals. My players were a little complex at first but now they start to get into the competition and believe me, we will fight to the end to pass this stage."
Ismaïla Tiémoko (Head Coach, Niger)
"After leading by 3- 1 and to draw 3-3 there is not much to say. We made a lot of mistakes that led the opponent to equalize."
"By the time we scored, we made some timely changes but it was lack of concentration at one point that cost us two goals. I do not think it's a question of tactical choice."