All eyes were on Group E once again as Cote d’Ivoire played out an entertaining match against Equatorial Guinea in their opening fixture of the TotalEnergies Africa Cup of Nations at the Japoma Stadium in Douala on Wednesday.
Patrice Beaumelle’s side shot to the top of Group E after a 1-0 victory against the well drilled Nzalang Nacional. Cote d’Ivoire were coming into the match as favourites opened the scoring early on.
Max-Alain Gradel’s right footed shot from outside the box found the top right corner of the net to beat Equatorial Guinea Keeper Manuel Mbara Sapunga in spectacular fashion.
Ibrahim Sangaré had a chance to double the lead for the Elephants but his header from the centre of the box went too high after a wonderful cross by Franck Kessié.
Nzalang Nacional were beginning to pile the pressure on the Elephants in the last quarter of the first half. Saúl Coco’s right footed shot from the left side of the box was close, but missed to the left hand side of Badra. Coco was in the thick of things again with another attempt blocked in the six yard box.
The second period began as the first ended with Equatorial Guinea on the front foot looking to get back into the match. Dorian Hanza threatened but his header was just wide of goal from Emilio Nsue’s cross.
Nsue had a chance himself to get a goal and put his team on level terms. A searching ball over the top by José Marchín found the captain but his right footed shot didn’t have enough bend to beat the Elephants keeper Badra.
In an attempt to seal the game Beaumelle made a triple substitution with Nicolas Pépé replacing Max-Alain Gradel. Wilfried Zaha came on for Maxwel Cornet while Serey Dié replaced Franck Kessié.
Zaha saw his effort skim wide of goal moments from the end of the game. The Elephants would eventually hang onto their 1-0 lead and claim three points to go top of the table in Group E.