Max-Alain Gradel’s early goal was enough to secure the Ivory Coast a 1-0 win over Equatorial Guinea at the Africa Cup of Nations on Wednesday but the minnows proved no pushovers in the Group E encounter.
Gradel, captaining a powerful Ivorian team that had Crystal Palace’s Wilfried Zaha on the bench, struck home a powerful effort from the edge of the penalty area in the sixth minute as they made a rapid start to the clash at the Japoma Stadium.
But while Ibrahim Sangare had two chances to double the lead before halftime, Equatorial Guinea, one of Africa’s smallest countries, proved more than a match.
Max Gradel (right) was on target as Ivory Coast began their AFCON trophy bid with a victory
The minnows had several good chances as they showed little fear of their heavyweight opponents with their captain Emilio Nsue failing to convert the best of them.
More to follow.
Equatorial Guinea: Sapunga Mbara, Akapo (Meseguer 89) Obiang Obono, Coco, Ndong, Salvador (Siafa 82), Ganet, Pepin, Buyla, Nsue, Hanza (Nlavo 64)
Subs not used: Anvene, Magno Mba, Balboa, Akapo, Oba, Nsue
Manager: Casto Nopo
Ivory Coast: B. Sangare, Maiga, Bailly, Deli, Konan, I. Sangara, Seri, Kessie (Die 71), Gradel (Pepe 71), Haller (Kouame 82), Cornet (Zaha 71)
Subs not used: Ira, Konate, Boly, Kossounou, Kouassi, Traore, Cisse, Boli
Goals: Gradel 5
Booked: I. Sangare
Manager: Patrice Beaumelle
Gradel picked up the ball outside the box and crashed home into the Equatorial Guinea net
Goal scorer Gradel was mobbed by his team-mates, having thumped home the opener early on
The minnows battled valiantly in Douala, but were ultimately condemned to an opening defeat