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Friday, 15 November 2019

Hot favorites Cote d'Ivoire off to winning start against 10-man Nigeria in U23 AFCON

Karim Farouk , Saturday 9 Nov 2019
Ivory Coast
Cote d'Ivoire's Jean Thierry Lazare Amani in action with Nigeria's Adam Aliyu and Olisa Ndah (Reuters)
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A second-half penalty earned Cote d'Ivoire a well deserved victory against defending champions Nigeria on Thursday in the opening game of Group B in the U23 Africa Cup of Nations at Cairo's Al-Salam Stadium.

Silas Gnaka made no mistake from the spot in the 71st minute after a flamboyant Christian Kouame was brought down in the area.

The Elephants took control of the game from the outset and threatened their opponents early in the game.

Youssef Dao was denied by a last-minute sliding tackle from a Nigerian defender before missing a sitter  inside the six-yard box after a brilliant move from Kouame, who skipped past two defenders in the area to set him up.

The young Super Eagles then sat back and tried to rely on counter attacks at the other end but lacked efficiency upfront. 

Nigeria upped their game after the interval and came close to scoring but a powerful header from Orji Okwonkwo crashed off the bar.

Cote d'Ivoire produced some fluid form of play that was hard to contain, with Dao and Aboubakar Keita wasting a couple of easy chances to break the deadlock.

It was in the 71st minute when Kouame slipped past his marker to connect with a cross from Doumbia, only to be pulled down by Olisa Ndah, who incurred a second yellow card to leave his team with 10 men on the pitch.

The Ivorians showed off their brilliance in the final minutes to secure the victory.

It is just a glimpse of their potential as they only had a 16-man squad for this game. Five key players will join up with the team after this weekend's game, including Toulouse midfielder Ibrahim Sangare, Sporting midfielder Idrissa Doumbia and Sassuolo forward Hamed Junior Traore.

Cote d'Ivoire will play South Africa on Tuesday.

(For more sports news and updates, follow Ahram Online Sports on Twitter at @AO_Sports and on Facebook at AhramOnlineSports.)

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