PRETORIA: Late goals from Ivory Coast forward Gervinho and Tunisia winger Youssef Msakni earned wins over Togo and Algeria respectively in the opening exchanges in Group D of the African Nations Cup.
Gervinho sealed victory for the tournament favourites with an 88th-minute strike to give Ivory Coast a 2-1 win over a Togo side upset by a hotel robbery earlier in the week. Msakni left it even later by netting in stoppage time to give Tunisia a 1-0 win over north African rivals Algeria.
Five of the eight games so far have ended in draws and the other three have all had late winners – Seidou Keita scoring for Mali in the 84th for a 1-0 victory over Niger on Sunday.
Ivory Coast, with Didier Drogba, Kolo Toure, Didier Zokora and Emmanuel Eboue launching one last attempt to win the trophy which has eluded their country since 1992, looked uneasy.
Skipper Drogba, 34, desperate to add the African title to the Champions League and Premier League crowns he won during his eights years at Chelsea, was substituted 16 minutes from time.
He said: “Togo gave us a good fight but we also made a lot of mistakes and this is something we can change in the next games. Still 2-1 for us is a great win even if it was difficult.”
Ivory Coast have been favourites at the last four editions and have failed to live up to expectations every time, losing on penalty shootouts in the 2006 and 2012 finals.
Togo’s captain Emmanuel Adebayor wasted an early chance and was punished when Yaya Toure scored Ivory Coast’s opener after eight minutes. Jonathan Ayite grabbed a Togo equaliser in first-half stoppage time but it was not enough.
Midway through the second half when Togo’s Dare Nibombe headed in a corner, but the goal was disallowed because the Cameroonian referee said the corner was taken before he blew the whistle – to the anger of Togo coach Didier Six.
Wednesday marks the start of the second round of group phase games with hosts South Africa playing Angola and Morocco facing Cape Verde in Group A at the Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban.
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