AFCON: Ivory Coast surrender three points to Nigeria (Match Report & Player Ratings)

William Troost-Ekong’s penalty secured victory for Nigeria against hosts Ivory Coast and swung Group A back in the Super Eagles’ favour at the Africa Cup of Nations.

After drawing their opening game against Equatorial Guinea, Nigeria were good value for this narrow victory, although it only came after a debatable second-half penalty when Ousmane Diomande was deemed to have clipped Victor Osimhen.
Captain Troost-Ekong stepped up to score from the spot, and Nigeria were able to then keep Ivory Coast at bay and leapfrog them in the table into second.

Roared on by a raucous crowd, the Ivorians pushed hard for an equaliser but failed to create a clear chance against a solid Super Eagles defence.

Victor Osimhen’s best opportunity came after just eight minutes when he latched on to a pass from Samuel Chukwueze but the Napoli forward failed to keep a bouncing ball down, sending his effort high over the bar.

Less than a minute later, Nigeria goalkeeper Stanley Nwabali was quickly off his line to use his body to make a point-blank save from Christian Kouame.

Ivorian defender Evan Ndicka then failed to connect properly with a half-volley from near the penalty spot, allowing Nwabali to comfortably gather.

After the fast start, the pace dwindled as the first half wore on, and the deadlock was ultimately broken early in the second period after VAR played its hand.

Diomande’s challenge on Osimhen after 51 minutes was fractionally late, catching the African player of the year and sending him to the turf.

With Osimhen down, the game carried on for around one minute until Algerian referee Mustapha Ghorbal was called over to review the challenge on the monitor.

Having changed his decision, Super Eagles captain Troost-Ekong was the surprise choice to assume penalties duties, with the former Watford defender choosing power over placement to beat Yahia Fofana.

The tournament hosts failed to find a way back into the game, with Seko Fofana and Franck Kessie blazing efforts well off target and Ndicka sending a header from a free-kick wide.

The Elephants’ first ever defeat against Nigeria on home soil means Ivory Coast become the first host nation to lose an Afcon group game in 18 fixtures going back to 2012.

Equatorial Guinea remain top and face Ivory Coast on Monday, at the same time Nigeria will fancy their chances against Guinea-Bissau.

With third perhaps enough to qualify for the knockouts, Equatorial Guinea, Ivory Coast and Nigeria can all still progress – but defeat on Thursday certainly ramps up the pressure on the hosts heading into those final round of Group A fixtures.

Ivory Coast: Y. Fofana 6; Ndicka 6, Diomande 6, Konan 6; S. Fofana 5, Aurier 5, Sangare 5, Kessie 5, Kouame 6, Boga 5, Krasso 5. Subs: Singo 6, Bamba 6, Pepe 6, Diakite n/a, Konate n/a.

Nigeria: Nwabali 7, Aina 6, Troost-Ekong 7, Ajayi 7, Bassey 8, Zaidu 7, Onyeka 7, Iwobi 7, Lookman 7, Chukwueze 7, Osimhen 6. Subs: Simon 6, Osayi 6, Omeruo n/a, Onuachu n/a.

A tough call with a handful of deserving candidates, including Ademola Lookman and match-winner Troost-Ekong, but we’ll give it to Fulham’s Calvin Bassey. The defender was a rock for Nigeria, putting in a proper shift and clearly enjoying the battle.

Photo Credit: CAF_Online