Afcon 2021: Max Gradel strike earns Ivory Coast win over Equatorial Guinea – BBC Sport


Max Gradel strikes the winner for Ivory Coast
Max Gradel plays his club football in Turkey for Sivasspor

Ivory Coast captain Max Gradel scored a spectacular winner as the Elephants narrowly beat Equatorial Guinea 1-0 in their Africa Cup of Nations opener.

Ex-Bournemouth and Leeds forward Gradel lashed the two-time champions ahead from 20 yards with the outside of his right foot just five minutes in.

Equatorial Guinea had chances to level but Iban Salvador sliced their best one horribly wide from seven yards.

Badra Ali Sangare later saved from Emilio Nsue as Ivory Coast held out.

Patrice Beaumelle’s side go top of Group E after defending champions Algeria drew with Sierra Leone on Tuesday.

Equatorial Guinea were unhappy with Gradel’s opener in Douala, appealing for a foul on Jose Machin in the build-up, but referee Redouane Jiyed confirmed the goal would stand after consulting his pitchside monitor.

Ibrahim Sangare sent an unmarked header over as Ivory Coast threatened to double their lead. But the Equatoguineans, who have qualified for the tournament by right for the first time in their history – with their two previous appearances courtesy of being a home nation – grew in stature.

A Basilio Ndong shot was thwarted by Elephants keeper Badra – standing in for first-choice stopper Sylvain Gbohouo after he was banned on the eve of the tournament for an alleged doping violation – while Machin’s sweetly-struck volley from 25 yards flew just wide.

They were left, however, to rue the costly miss from Salvador in the second half and Nicolas Pepe could have settled it, only for Equatorial Guinea keeper Manuel Sapunga Mbara to thwart the Arsenal forward with a fine fingertip save.

Substitute Wilfried Zaha also steered wastefully wide late on for Ivory Coast, but it was far from a statement performance from a side that last won the trophy in 2015, against opponents ranked 58 places below them.

Another close contest in Cameroon

With the first round of fixtures complete across the six groups, 10 of the 12 game have so far been decided by a single goal, with the other two finishing goalless.

This was the ninth to finish 1-0 as well as being the third of Wednesday’s three fixtures to end that way after Mali’s controversial victory over Tunisia and The Gambia’s triumph over Mauritania.

Ivory Coast face Sierra Leone in their second game on Sunday at 16:00 GMT, while Equatorial Guinea take on Algeria later that evening (19:00 GMT).

Line-ups

Equatorial Guinea

Formation 4-4-2

  • 13Sapunga Mbara
  • 15Akapo MartínezSubstituted forMeseguerat 89′minutes
  • 21Orozco Fernández Obiang Obono
  • 16Coco-Bassey Oubiña
  • 11Owono Nchama
  • 6Salvador EdúSubstituted forSiafá Etohaat 82′minutes
  • 22Ganet
  • 8Machín
  • 14Buyla Sam
  • 10Nsue
  • 18Hanza MehaSubstituted forNlavo Asuéat 64′minutesBooked at 67mins

Substitutes

  • 5Anvene Ebang Elá
  • 9Siafá Etoha
  • 12Magno Mba Bicoro
  • 19Nlavo Asué
  • 23Meseguer
  • 24Balboa Bandeira
  • 26Akapo Martínez
  • 27Mbengono Asu
  • 28Nsue Ntugu Akele

Ivory Coast

Formation 4-3-3

  • 23Sangaré
  • 12Maïga
  • 21Bailly
  • 14Deli
  • 3Konan
  • 18SangaréBooked at 31mins
  • 4Seri
  • 8KessiéSubstituted forDiéat 71′minutes
  • 15GradelSubstituted forPépéat 71′minutes
  • 22HallerSubstituted forKouaméat 82′minutes
  • 11CornetSubstituted forZahaat 71′minutes

Substitutes

  • 1Tapé
  • 2Konaté
  • 6Boly
  • 7Kossounou
  • 9Zaha
  • 10Kouassi
  • 19Pépé
  • 20Dié
  • 24Kouamé
  • 25Traorè
  • 26Cissé
  • 28Boli

Referee:
Rédouane Jiyed

Match Stats

Live Text

  1. Match ends, Equatorial Guinea 0, Côte d’Ivoire 1.

  2. Second Half ends, Equatorial Guinea 0, Côte d’Ivoire 1.

  3. Attempt missed. Wilfried Zaha (Côte d’Ivoire) left footed shot from the left side of the box is close, but misses to the right. Assisted by Ibrahim Sangaré.

  4. Dangerous play by Christian Kouamé (Côte d’Ivoire).

  5. Esteban Obiang (Equatorial Guinea) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

  6. Substitution, Equatorial Guinea. Luis Meseguer replaces Carlos Akapo because of an injury.

  7. Foul by Nicolas Pépé (Côte d’Ivoire).

  8. Luís Nlavo (Equatorial Guinea) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

  9. Attempt missed. Wilfried Zaha (Côte d’Ivoire) right footed shot from outside the box is close, but misses to the left. Assisted by Serey Dié.

  10. Christian Kouamé (Côte d’Ivoire) wins a free kick on the left wing.

  11. Foul by Carlos Akapo (Equatorial Guinea).

  12. Attempt missed. José Machín (Equatorial Guinea) right footed shot from outside the box is too high. Assisted by Luís Nlavo.

  13. Attempt blocked. Jean Michaël Seri (Côte d’Ivoire) right footed shot from outside the box is blocked.

  14. Substitution, Equatorial Guinea. Óscar Siafá replaces Iban Salvador.

  15. Substitution, Côte d’Ivoire. Christian Kouamé replaces Sébastien Haller.

  16. Corner, Côte d’Ivoire. Conceded by Manuel Sapunga.

  17. Attempt saved. Nicolas Pépé (Côte d’Ivoire) left footed shot from the centre of the box is saved in the bottom left corner. Assisted by Ibrahim Sangaré.

  18. Attempt missed. Nicolas Pépé (Côte d’Ivoire) left footed shot from the centre of the box is too high. Assisted by Ghislain Konan following a fast break.

  19. Foul by Nicolas Pépé (Côte d’Ivoire).

  20. Basilio Ndong (Equatorial Guinea) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

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