Mali 0-1 Ivory Coast
Suez Stadium, Suez
Crystal Palace forward Wilfred Zaha was the hero as Ivory Coast defeated Mali 1-0 in the Africa Cup of Nations round of 16 match played on Monday.
Zaha who was starting his second match at the finals, raced onto a Sylvain Gbohouo’s long free kick before slotting the ball past Mali’s goalie Djigui Diarra.
As anticipated, Mali put up strong resistance, creating the most chances but failed to convert.
FC Porto’s Moussa Marega and Moussa Djenepo were both guilty of missing glorious opportunity that would have seen Mali take temporary lead in the game.
Ivory Coast who has had a trying tournament so far, losing to Morocco in the group stage, struggled to gain control of the game as Mali imposed their physic onto them.
With Mali dominating most of the early exchanges, the Elephants failed to register a single attempt on target in a first half that they could easily have trailed in.
Marega’s poor connection after lashing onto a Moussa Djenepo low cross compounded Mali’s frustrating first half as they took the game to Ivory Coast.
Djenepo who was a menace for the Elephants on the right, created other good opportunities but his peers could not apply the telling touch.
Abdoulay Diaby also had a free-kick turned over the bar by Ivory Coast goalkeeper Gbohouo before Djenepo wasted a good chance when he was indecisive when through on goal, opting to pass instead of going for glory.
Ivory Coast’s first real chance of the game came moments after the interval but Jonathan Kodjia saw his first time shot deflect off Diarra’s left leg and out for just a corner.
With 16 minutes to play, Ivory Coast struck. Zaha who is linked with a move to Arsenal raced onto a long ball by Gbohouo before scrapping it under the on-rashing Diarra and into the back of the net.
In the closing moments, Mali pressed for an equalizer but despite getting several half chances, Ivory Coast were resolute, walking away with a slender 1-0 win.
The result sees Ivory Coast march onto the last 8 where they will take on the winner between Ghana and Tunisia who face off later on Monday.
For Mali, it is the end of the road and will now head home.
The other game on Monday
-Ghan vs Tunisia