LUANDA (AFP) - Mali made a miraculous recovery to pull back from a four goal deficit to hold Angola to a 4-4 draw in the opening game of the 2010 Africa Cup of Nations here on Sunday.
The hosts appeared set for the best possible start when a first half double from Flavio Armado and penalties from Gilberto and Manucho had them celebrating a famous victory.
With only 16 minutes on the clock Mali looked down and out.
But a double from Seydou Keita and contributions from Frederic Kanoute and Mustapha Yattabare gave them an improbable draw.
Angola coach Manuel Jose said: "This draw tasted like a defeat to me, this is one of the most bitter pills I've ever had to swallow in all the matches of my long career.
"Football in Africa is learning on the road, we have the skills but we were a little naive.
"It makes the next match a little more complicated. The public deserved a win."
Angola skipper Kali added: "We have to raise our heads - I'm so sad and sorry - there's no explanation for letting go of such a big lead.
"But we've got to give a good response in our next match."
Mali coach Stephen Keshi, who lifted the title with Nigeria as a player in the 1990s, didn''t know whether to laugh or cry.
"It was a little difficult to believe we might come back. I've got mixed feelings, I'm happy with a draw but upset with my team."
This Nations Cup curtain raiser began with a minute's silence in memory of the victims of Friday's deadly gun attack on the Togo team coach in Cabinda.
The silence, immaculately observed by the 50,000 capacity crowd, turned to something much louder seconds after kick off when Mali goalkeeper Mahamadou Sidibe had to look lively to deal with Flavio's shot from the left.
The Angolan striker only made the starting XI after shrugging off injury but Keita was on the bench after missing the Eagles' warm-up games with a thigh problem.
Angola were forced into an unscheduled change of personnel in the 22nd minute when Aderito Carvalho was stretchered off and replaced by Djalma Campos.
Mali coach Stephen Keshi sent Barcelona midfielder Keita into the fray sooner than expected when Le Mans forward Modibo Maiga limped out of contention.
This was the first ever match at the 11 November stadium built by the Chinese and resembling a smaller version of Beijing's Birds' Nest.
And the 'Chicks Nest' burst into life in the 35th minute when Flavio raced on to Gilberto's angled 20 metre freekick from the left to put the hosts' in front with a low powerful header.
One minute from the break Flavio got his double, another fine header set up by fullback Jose 'Malbina' Alberto.
That prompted the wife of Angolan head of state Jose Eduardo dos Santos to jump off her seat and execute a very un-First Lady style jig.
Mali's multi-million pound strikeforce led by Sevilla's Kanoute had proved strangely impotent in the first half.
They looked a more purposeful force after the interval, with only Angola keeper Carlos Fernandes' charge out of his box stopping Mali captain Mahamadou Diarra's shot.
Gilberto then struck from the spot after he was brought down in the box by Mamadou Samassa.
The Al-Ahly midfielder proved a cool customer as he converted, but was then ordered to have a second go by Egyptian referee Essam Abdel Fatah, which he duly struck past Sidibe.
Manucho got Angola's fourth, also from the spot after another foul on Gilberto.
But then Angola crumbled.
Keita began the comeback after a scramble for the ball in the box following a mistake by Fernandes.
Then Kanoute struck with a classy header, with Keita producing a volley for his double and Yattabare grabbing a highly unlikely point for the Eagles.
|16||Flávio Amado||36' 42'|
|Coach: Manuel José|
for Dédé 25'
for Gilberto 81'
for Flávio Amado 84'
|UEFA Champions League Review: Ajax spurn two-goal lead at 10-man Rapid|
|Sunderland´s struggles continue as Doncaster cruise to win|
|Mahrez and Nugent on target in Leicester win|
|Mitrovic tastes debut defeat for Newcastle|
|Celtic 1 Qarabag 0: Boyata snatches crucial win|
|Jablonec 0 Copenhagen 1: Verbic cracker gives Danes the edge|
|Norwich sign Wisdom on loan from Liverpool|
|UEFA Europa League Preview: Koeman plays down importance of Vitesse links|
|Schneiderlin keen to learn from experienced duo|
|Mandzukic´s maiden Juventus goal seals win in Poland|
|Fofana completes Bastia loan|
|Deila delighted that Gordon pledges future to Celtic|
|Grenier ruled out for four months|
|Rooney: United squad ready for title challenge|
|Messi and Neymar available for start of season|
|Szczesny seals Roma switch|
|Benitez cools Mourinho war of words|
|Filipe Luis vows to win back Atletico fans|
|Besiktas in negotiations over Gomez switch|
|Kishna seals Lazio switch|
|Diaby completes Marseille move|
|Platini is bad for FIFA - Prince Ali|
|Bilic keen to make further additions|
|Brady makes Norwich move|
|Southampton complete Caulker loan|
|Rummenigge feels Muller ´will never leave´ Bayern|
|Platini to stand in FIFA presidential election|
|Howedes to remain Schalke skipper|
|Albion sign Hull defender Chester|
|Lucescu defends Fred selection amid doping allegations|
|Fabregas still in love with Arsenal|
|Luis Enrique ´happy´ with Barca´s US trip|
|Mourinho optimistic over Cahill and Costa|
|River owe Tigres´ Esqueda - Mercado|
|Van Gaal expecting big season from Shaw|
|Begovic keen to challenge Courtois|
|Mourinho launches attack on Benitez|
|CONMEBOL ´knocked on a lot of doors´ to keep half-spot - president|
|America 0 Benfica 0 (3-4 on penalties): Primeira Liga champions finally win|
|Napoli striker Higuain ´untouchable´ - Gabbiadini|
|Arsenal´s friendly form will boost confidence - Wenger|
|Nagatomo-Melo swap possible, says agent|
|Chelsea 2 Barcelona 2 (4-2 on penalties): Courtois stars for Premier League champions|
|Eriksen calls for ruthless Spurs|
|Pulis praises Berahino attitude|
|Alderweireld confident of top-four finish|
|Villa ready for tough Spurs clash|
|West Ham edge win on Carrow Road anniversary|
|Kozak scores twice as Villa draw at Wolves|
|Stanislas brace leads Bournemouth past Yeovil|
|Watford slip to friendly defeat at Cardiff|
|Lukaku injury sours Everton win at Dundee|
|UEFA Champions League Review: Fenerbahce draw blank as Monaco impress|
|West Brom earn friendly win over Walsall|
|Vardy at the double as Leicester beat Burton|
|Atletico impress in win over Oviedo|
|Herrera sacked by Mexico after ´punch´|
|Gerrard, Keane and Bradley pull out of MLS All-Star squad|
|Marseille reach Diaby agreement|
|Sammer thrilled with Vidal´s winning mentality|
|Platini expected to launch FIFA presidency bid|
|Romanov sacked me over Barca snub - Korobochka|
|Villa complete Crespo capture|
|Wolfsberger v Borussia Dortmund: Bender praises ´fun but exhausting´ training|
|Okaka swaps Sampdoria for Anderlecht|
|Southampton v Vitesse: Fonte excited for ´dream´ sojourn into Europe|
|Bournemouth agree King compensation|
|West Ham v Astra: Kouyate confident West Ham can progress|
|Vidal completes Bayern switch, signs four-year deal|
|Fabregas calls for Champions League improvement|
|BREAKING NEWS: Filipe Luis completes Atletico return|
|Bayern to present Vidal|
|Wenger unfazed by Mourinho´s spending jibe|
|Pellegrini: Sterling will justify price tag|
|Cavani hit with two-match Uruguay ban|
|Bonucci to remain at Juve until 2020|
|No bids for Berahino - West Brom|
|Putin: Blatter deserves a Nobel prize|
|Howe: Swansea a benchmark for Bournemouth|
|New Parma to play in Serie D|
|Mata vows to hit the goal trail at United|
|Drogba ´perfect fit´ for Montreal|
|Berahino ´not yet´ ready for Tottenham - Irvine|
|Romero lauds caring Van Gaal|
|Jese flying at Real under Rafa|
|Sampdoria unwilling to pay €10m for Balotelli|
|Mourinho talks up Arsenal title chances|
|Hull sign Ryan Taylor, Sam Clucas|
|Kane, Pochettino hail MLS All-Star test|
|Di Santo sorry for swift Werder departure|