Ivory Coast stun defending champions Senegal in AFCON upset

Cote d’Ivoire Celebrate 

Hosts Cote d’Ivoire pulled off a stunning upset by defeating defending champions Senegal 5-4 on penalties after extra time to advance to the quarter-finals of the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) on Monday, January 29, 2024. 

The dramatic Round of 16 tie ended 1-1 after extra time, and Cote d’Ivoire emerged victorious in the penalty shootout. 

The Ivorians showed tremendous resilience and spirit to dethrone Senegal, who will have to relinquish their title. 

The result was a redemption for the hosts, who had been humiliated 4-0 in the final game of the pool stages. 

Cote D’Ivoire will now progress into the last eight where they will square off with tournament wonder, Cape Verde.

Kessie was the shootout hero, converting the decisive kick after Moussa Niakhate had struck the post with the third Senegalese penalty.

Senegal became the seventh consecutive holders to fall victim to a Cup of Nations curse — no team since Egypt in 2008 have been able to take a title defence beyond the round of 16.

A humiliating 4-0 loss to Equatorial Guinea last Monday did not dampen support for the host nation with supporters queueing from the middle of the night to buy tickets in the central city.

French coach Jean-Louis Gasset was fired after the record home loss and, after failing in an attempt to bring back former coach Herve Renard, the Elephants promoted assistant Emerse Fae.

The west African showdown pitted the most and least impressive of the 16 qualifiers from the group stage against each other.

Senegal comfortably beat the Gambia, Cameroon and Guinea to top Group D, and were the only section winners to progress having secured a maximum nine points.

Cote D’Ivoire managed only three points after also losing to Nigeria and had a minus-three goal difference, but still squeezed through as the last of the four best third-placed countries.

Fae made five changes to the team that kicked off against Equatorial Guinea, promoting Serge Aurier, Odilon Kossounou, Jean Michael Seri, Max-Alain Gradel and Jean-Philippe Krasso.

Despite defeating Guinea 2-0 in their last group game, Senegal changed three of that starting line-up with Moussa Niakhate, Abdou Diallo and Lamine Camara coming in.

-Disastrous start –

The last thing mentally brittle Cote D’Ivoire wanted to happen was conceding an early goal, but within four minutes they were a goal behind as Habib Diallo scored his second of this AFCON.

Sadio Mane crossed and Diallo controlled the ball with his chest before unleashing a rising shot past goalkeeper Youssef Fofana.

Mane was yellow-carded by the Gabonese referee five minutes later after a reckless tackle on Ibrahim Sangare, who resumed after treatment on and off the field.

Showing a huge improvement from their last match, the Ivorians gradually took control only to be thwarted by opponents who pulled all 10 outfield players back when under pressure.

Having soaked up considerable pressure, the defending champions finished the opening half strongly without being able to increase their lead.

As a tense tie entered the final quarter, Cote D’Ivoire had more possession, but Senegal looked the likelier scorers with Ismaila Sarr having a shot parried and a penalty appeal rejected.

Amid excitement in the crowd at the introduction of Sebastien Haller, who missed the group stage through injury, Mane was just off target with a shot from close range.

When the Ivorians opted for a route-one approach, Senegal goalkeeper Edouard Mendy saved superbly from substitute Nicolas Pepe.

But Senegal finally cracked on 86 minutes when Mendy fouled Pepe and, after a VAR review, the referee changed his decision not to award a spot-kick and Franck Kessie calmly converted it.

Two-time African Player of the Year Mane was foiled just before half-time in extra time when his shot was smothered by Fofana.
~Additional report from Vanguard News
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