Ivory Coast left to count cost of Cup of Nations opener

Ivory Coast
Ivory Coast's Serge Wilfried, right, is tackled by Guinea's Ibrahima Traore (AP)
Wednesday 21 Jan 2015

The Ivory Coast could be left counting the cost of the opening day of their Africa Cup of Nations campaign after standout performer Gervinho was sent off as the Elephants only managed a 1-1 draw with Guinea.

Gervinho had the Ivorians' best chances in the first half of an absorbing encounter in steamy Malabo, coming closest from a shot that was turned against the bar by Guinea goalkeeper Naby Yattara.

However, after the Syli Nationale had taken the lead into the interval courtesy of a Mohamed Yattara strike that followed some poor defending, Gervinho was sent off just before the hour mark for striking Naby Keita in the face.

The Roma forward fell to the floor and slammed the ground in anger after being shown a straight red card by the Algerian referee which could compromise his chances of featuring in the rest of the tournament.

Substitute Seydou Doumbia came on to equalise and secure a share of the points, ensuring that it could have been far worse for the Ivorians as they chase their first continental title since 1992.

However, former Arsenal player Gervinho will now serve an automatic one-match ban, ruling him out of Saturday's second group game against Mali in Equatorial Guinea's capital.

But he and his coach Herve Renard will be left sweating -- and not just because of the hot and humid conditions -- as they wait to discover whether a lengthier ban lies in store for violent conduct.

Reigning African footballer of the year and captain Yaya Toure said: "The game was tough and of course we lost an important player in Gervinho but in the first half we created a couple of chances.

"After that, yeah, we made a mistake and they took their chance. But we have 23 players working hard and we see how Doumbia comes in and he makes the difference.

"At the CAN it's never easy. We made too many blunders in the first half and it's true that against Mali it will be very difficult but I still think we have a chance to go through."

The result of Tuesday's second Group D game left the section wide open, with Cameroon coming from behind to draw 1-1 with Mali. However, both sides indicated that they will cause problems for the Ivory Coast, who finished behind Cameroon in their qualifying group.

"I think in the first half we were not fantastic but we still should have been in front. We had two chances from Gervinho including one which hit the bar," said Renard, who sported one of his trademark immaculate white shirts for the occasion.

"Then one long cross that was going out until one of our players kept it in and that led to Guinea's goal.

"So we were down and and then there was the sending-off of Gervinho, so it was very tough but sometimes you have to change something tactically and go forward, because I think we could still have won the game even with 10 men," added the Frenchman, who continues to swat away suggestions that his side are among the tournament favourites.

"We have come here as a team under construction. I think Cameroon were superior to us in qualifying so I think it's difficult for us to come here and say we are the big favourites.

"Guinea performed well in qualifying, notably in drawing with Ghana and beating Togo 4-1 so they are not a team to be underestimated. There are still two matches left for us to qualify. Nothing has been decided."

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