Max Gradel’s fifth-minute stunner was enough to see Ivory Coast start their Africa Cup of Nations campaign with a 1-0 win over Equatorial Guinea.
In just the second AFCON meeting between the two nations, experienced winger Gradel sent a thunderous first-time effort into the top-right corner to put the Elephants ahead in their opening encounter in Douala on Wednesday.
Yet despite facing a star-studded Ivory Coast side, Equatorial Guinea can consider themselves unfortunate not to have taken something against the two-time AFCON champions.
Indeed, Gradel’s effort was the only attempt on target from Ivory Coast until substitute Nicolas Pepe forced a save from Manuel Sapunga in the 81st minute.
Emilio Nsue squandered Equatorial Guinea’s best opportunity just after the hour-mark, drilling straight at Ivory Coast goalkeeper Badra Ali Sangare when through one-on-one.
But the Elephants were not made to pay for their relatively blunt attacking, given the quality at their disposal, as they took the lead in Group E and ensured their run of avoiding defeat in AFCON openers continued, having last gone down in such a game in 1996.
An emotional moment for
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