The Indomitable Lions, with regular goalkeeper Andre Onana reportedly on his way home after a falling out with coach Rigobert Song, scored first through Jean-Charles Castelletto only for Serbia to seize control through goals from Strahinja Pavlovic, Sergej Milinkovic-Savic and Aleksandar Mitrovic.
It seemed Dragan Stojkovic’s men were cruising but they were stung by two goals in three second-half minutes, substitute Vincent Aboubakar’s clever finish reducing the arrears before Eric Choupo-Moting brought Cameroon level.
Serbia bossed the bulk of the first half but had to wait until just before half-time to make their superiority count in the Group G clash at Al Janoub Stadium on Monday.
Mitrovic fired a left-footed strike against the post in the sixth minute following a neat one-two with Dusan Tadic and, six minutes later, came close again by shooting wide from close range after the ball bobbled around the Cameroon box.
Serbia were made to pay for his profligacy when Cameroon took the lead approaching the half-hour mark.
Pierre Kunde whipped in a corner from the left that was flicked on by Nicolas Nkoulou and Castelletto tapped in at the far post.
Cameroon could have doubled their advantage after 43 minutes but Kunde fired straight at goalkeeper Vanja Milinkovic-Savic when clean through before slicing the rebound horribly wide.
It was to prove a critical moment as Serbia turned the game around before the break.
First, Pavlovic headed in Tadic’s floated free-kick before Sergej Milinkovic-Savic drove home from the edge of the box, although Onana’s deputy Devis Epassy should have done better.
Mitrovic got the goal his all-round display deserved eight minutes into the second half.
Lovely interplay from Filip Kostic and Sergej Milinkovic-Savic enabled Andrija Zivkovic to find space on the right side of the area and his cut-back was perfect for Mitrovic to tap into an empty net.
Cameroon appeared to be beaten but the 55th-minute introduction of Aboubakar turned the game on its head.
The Al Nassr striker made it 3-2 after 64 minutes, running on to Castelletto’s through ball before producing an impudent scoop over Serbia goalkeeper Vanja Milinkovic-Savic – the goal given after a VAR check.
He then turned provider two minutes later, escaping down the right before crossing for Choupo-Moting to fire in.
Mitrovic could have clinched it but shot straight at Epassy.
Cameroon vs Serbia player ratings – World Cup Group G
1. Cameroon (4-3-3)
GK: Devis Epassy – 3/10 – Brought in to replace Andre Onana and was poor for first two Serbia goals. Shaky throughout but did make one important stop when Mitrovic went through 1v1.
RB: Collins Fai – 5/10 – Energetic presence down the right but ineffective with his crossing.
CB: Jean-Charles Castelletto – 7/10 – Scored the opening goal and battled well with Mitrovic in the first half. Assist for Aboubakar’s goal.
CB: Nicolas Nkoulou – 2/10 – Was skinned by Mitrovic for opening chance and his failed clearance should have been punished soon after. Did set up goal but was disastrous defensively. Booked.
LB: Nouhou Tolo – 4/10 – Serbia continually exploited the space down his left side. Wasn’t given much assistance from Toko Ekambi but looked lost regardless.
DM: Martin Hongla – 4/10 – Anonymous before being substituted
CM: Pierre Kunde – 7/10 – Took the battle to Serbia in the middle and had a couple of dangerous runs and efforts on goal.
CM: Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa – 3/10 – The Napoli playmaker made two costly errors with the ball and failed to control the game.
RW: Bryan Mbuemo – 6/10 – Looked lively on the counter before being substituted.
LW: Karl Toko Ekambi – 4/10 – Contributed very little of note and shot tamely at the goalkeeper when presented with a chance to pass in the second half.
CF: Maxim Choupo-Moting – 7/10 – Bayern Munich’s in-form forward was starved of service for much of the match but caused problems for Serbia’s back three with his physicality. Got a deserved goal to level the match.
SUB: Vincent Aboubakar (55′ for Hongla) – 8/10 – Caused chaos after his introduction, scoring a beautiful lob and creating the equaliser.
SUB: Christian Bassogog (67′ for Toko Ekambi) – N/A
SUB: Gael Ondoua (67′ for Kunde) – N/A
SUB: Samuel Gouet (81′ for Anguissa) – N/A
SUB: Georges-Kevin N’Koudou (81′ for Mbuemo) – N/A
Manager: Rigobert Song – 5/10 – The decision to send one of Cameroon’s best players in Andre Onana home from the tournament because he refuses to take long goal-kicks could have cost his team dearly. His timely decision to bring on Aboubakar changed the game
2. Serbia (3-4-1-2)
GK: Vanja Milinkovic-Savic – 6/10 – Aside from one risky moment storming outside his box to sweep up, the Serbia keeper was a dependable presence between the sticks. Left stranded for Cameroon’s second-half goals.
CB: Nikola Milenkovic – 6/10 – Firm in the challenge and composed on the ball. Showed great pace to chase down Bryan Mbuemo for a superb challenge on the cover. Unlucky to have been caught out with two automated offside goals.
CB: Milos Veljkovic – 4/10 – Lost Castelletto at the corner and couldn’t cope after Aboubakar’s introduction.
CB: Strahinja Pavlovic – 7/10 – Headed in a deserved equaliser but was substituted in the second half due to injury.
RWB: Andrija Zivkovic – 9/10 – A constant threat down the right-hand side and linked up brilliantly with his teammates. Always available on the overlap.
CM: Sasa Lukic – 4/10 – Offered very little in midfield and was muscled off the ball too easily.
CM: Nemanja Maksimovic – 5/10 – A steady operator, made one dangerous foray forward in the first half. Could have done better getting back for Aboubakar’s chipped finish.
LWB: Filip Kostic – 7/10 – The Juventus man was up and down the left flank throughout and Serbia looked much better with him in the team.
AM: Sergej Milinkovic-Savic – 9/10 – A force to be reckoned with in midfield. Ran the show.
CF: Dusan Tadic – 9/10 – Along with Milinkovic-Savic was a level above everyone else on the pitch. Weight of touch and pass superb throughout.
CF: Aleksandar Mitrovic – 5/10 – Missed chances galore but was a constant menace for the Cameroon backline to deal with. Scored one but should have had more given the quality of the opportunities.
SUB: Stefan Mitrovic (56′ for Pavlovic) – 3/10 – Beaten too easily inside the box by Vincent Aboubakar to lead to a Cameroon chance. Introduction weakened Serbia’s backline.
SUB: Srdjan Babic (78′ for Veljkovic) – N/A
SUB: Marko Grujic (78′ for Milinkovic-Savic) – N/A
SUB: Nemanja Radonjic (78′ for Zivkovic) – N/A
SUB: Filip Djuricic (92′ for Filip Kostic) – N/A
Manager: Dragan Stojkovic – 4/10 – Serbia were dominant for large periods but failed to take their chances. Failed to react to Cameroon’s fightback and his high defensive line was exploited in the second half