Ivory Coast and Mali have entertained their supporters this Monday evening. The better side they say carries the day but this evening’s case rather saw the better side in Mali accepting defeat to Ivory Coast.
As it happened:
The Ivorian set the ball rolling in the the nice weather of the evening and came close immediately through Franck Kessie but his advancing run was well defended and Moussa Marega transferred the ball from the Malian side of the pitch but he could not keep the ball as it went out for an Ivorian goal kick.
Captain Serey Die of Ivory Coast brought down Marega in the 4th minute of the game at the expense of a Mali set piece from 40th minute but Youssouf Kone gifted the ball to goalkeeper Sylvain Gbohouo through a weak shot.
The Ivorians will come close again in the 7th minute when keyman Wilfred Zaha broke into the box but his shot was deflected.
In the 7th minute goalkeeper Sylvain and Abdoulay Diaby will meet in the Ivorian box but the vigilance and quick thinking of the keeper saw him step out and collect the ball.
Mali continued their attempt to keep the ball and a great pass to the left wing at the 10th minute left Lassana Coulibaly in lots of space but he took too much time on the ball until the Ivorian defense recovered to get the ball off him.
Two minutes later Moussa Marega and Abdoulaye Diaby will threaten the Ivorian back four, first through Marega who failed to exploit his chance to test the keeper and rather passed to Lassana Coulibaly who didn’t succeed to get the right connection with the ball. Captain Abdoulaye will come knocking again but his shot went wide for a goal kick.
The Malians then took the ball to their camp attempting to slice open the solid opposition defense from counter attacks.
A good 18th minute corner from Amadou Haidara saw the ball touch the finger tips of Sylvain and fell kindly to Abdoulaye Diaby but unfortunately his thoughts that the goalkeeper could have dealt with the ball left him less focus and he couldn’t control as the ball bounced off him and out for a corner.
A great 19th minute run from Malian Hamari Traore left him in the before the keeper but he shot wide.
Captain Abdoulaye Diaby will warm the gloves of keeper Sylvain who opted to push the ball out for a corner that was wasted.
The Ivorian came forward in the 24th minute thanks to a great long range pass from 45 meters out that found Kessie but before he could bring the ball down the alert Malian defenders were before him.
With 25 minutes gone Mali looked more dangerous while big Ivorian names like Wilfred Zaha and Franck Kessie, Nicolas Pepe were only found in the pockets of the Malian defenders.
Nicolas Pepe found space in the box in the 29th minute after picking a long range pass but Mamadou Fofana recovered to stop the out of form forward.
Mousa Marega will hit another shot on Target in the 34th minutes from a set piece situation but the vigilant goalkeeper Sylvain kept the ball on his chest.
Lassana Coulibaly picked up the first booking of the game following a 36th minutes foul that gave away a wasted set piece to the Ivorian.
The set piece though wasted caused an injury scare for both teams. Ivorian defender Wilfred Konan met Djigui Diarra who was high to keep the ball for Mali, and both men heavily collided with Konan looking to come out the worst. He finally got treatment off the pitch for him to recover from the head injury and continue.
In the 42nd minute, Moussa Djenepo intelligently created space from the left flank and laid the ball to Moussa Marega who could have done better with his finishing as he put the ball wide.
It was all Mali as the Eagles kept on knocking the doors of the elephant with wonderful combination play.
The one minute of extra time provided just one major action as the Malian yet again found themselves in the box through forward Moussa Marega but this time around the referee intervened to stop play as the forward was slidely offside.
The Eagles of Mali came into the second half in the same manner in which they played most of the first segment.
At the 47th minute Moussa Marega played in Abdoulay Diaby but the captain in nearly his last contribution before leaving his place to Adama Troare went to the ground when it mattered most without contact.
Moussa Djenepo will come close again and face the same scenario.
Abdoulay got substituted in the 54th minute and Ivory Coast nearly took the lead from a corner but the goalkeeper deviated the ball wide.
In the 57th minute the Ivory Coast put together their best passing series in the game and got into the box but the space was quickly closed and ball put out for a corner.
In the 59th minute, Ivory Coast came close again from a corner but good defending from the Malians put the ball away.
Mamadou Bagayoko picked a 63rd minute booking for a foul on Moussa Djenepo, the set piece chance was wasted but almost immediately Marega came back with the ball, went down but Referee Janny Sikazwe insisted there was no foul and Marega’s teammate Adama Traore who had just came in for Ahmadou Haidara put it over the bar.
Jonathan Kodjia somehow found space in the box after getting a long cross field ball but unfortunately for him he shot wide.
Coach Ibrahima Kamara reacted to the latest miss by throwing in Maxwell Cornet in place of Nicolas Pepe who had been disappointing on the day.
The Ivorian defensive pair of Wilfred Kanon and Ismaël Traoré rose high in search of a 69th minute aerial ball in the box but Konan’s timid effort was collected by Goalkeeper Djigui Diarra.
A long range 74th minute throw into the Malian box found Ivorian Franck Kessie but instead of creating danger he sacrificed possession through a foul.
A minute later Wilfred Zaha came knocking with space as he met Goalkeeper Djigui Diarra, the England based forward slotted the ball into the Malian net to give Ivory Coast a 75th minute lead.
Lassana Coulibaly left his place for Khalifa Coulibaly in the 80th minutes just before Adama Troare took a corner Mali. The Mali corner was wasted as the Elephants became more protective with the quarterfinals within touching distance.
An 83rd minute set piece for Ivory Coast was collected by the goalkeeper.
Mali will come close again from the right but the cross from Hamari Traore found no one in the box.
In the 84th minute of the game, Jonathan Kodjia will leave his place for fellow forward Wilfred Bony as the coach Kamara wanted fresh options upfront.
An 88th minute corner from Adama Traore was collected by Sylvain Gbouoho.
In the 90th minute another corner met Moussa Marega in the box after a kind defensive deflection but the defensive solidity of the Elephants stopped the danger.
Goalkeeper Sylvain was made to work in the 3 minutes of additional time as he helped the Ivorians hold unto a 1 nil win.
Ivory Coast joins the other 6 nations that qualified for the quarter final and the list of 8 nations will be completed before midnight on Monday ahead of the midweek quarter final showdown.
Angu Lesley in Suez