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Ivory Coast book semi-final slot against the odds

Ivory Coast players celebrate Oumar Diakite winner in Extra Time
Ten-man Ivory Coast scored in the final minutes of regulation and ET to confirm their place in the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) semi-finals for the first time since 2015,  beating Mali 2-1 on home soil.

 

Penalties were crucial to Ivory Coast’s progression, and now in the opening stages, that same drama threatened their exit.

Referee Mohamed Adel’s first major decision came after eight minutes when Odilon Kossounou’s outstretched arm blocked an Amadou Haidara shot at close range. After a four-minute VAR review, the original call stood, with Haidara initially being offside, the reason.

Mali were enraged, yet their mood quickly brightened when a spot-kick was given at the second time of asking, this time after Kossounou bundled into Lassine Sinayoko in the box. Up stepped Adama Traoré, though his effort from 12 yards was expertly read by Yahia Fofana, who saved low to his left.

For his role in the second incident, Kossounou had been shown a yellow card, yet a mistake from Jean Michaël Seri left his already-booked teammate to deal with Sinayoko bearing down on goal, again resulting in a clumsy challenge on the edge of the box as Kossounou was dismissed.

This left a few remaining minutes plus an extended stoppage time for Mali to grab an unlikely opener before halftime given the history of this fixture, but it remained 0-0 at the break for the fourth time in six H2Hs.

SECOND HALF

Having taken in that nightmare first period, the Elephants’ interim boss Emerse Faé could only respond by rolling out personnel changes and switching to a pragmatic approach.

It made them difficult to break down though in turn, Éric Chelle in the opposite dugout turned to Nene Dorgeles – who has Ivorian roots – for inspiration. With 19 minutes remaining, the 21-year-old produced a glorious curling finish from outside of the area into the top-right corner to stun the Stade de la Paix, following up with muted celebrations.

They finished third in their group, required penalties in the last round and once again facing the prospect of exiting AFCON on home soil, a desperate final push was required to rescue 10-man Ivory Coast.

When two-headed opportunities went amiss it seemed their luck had run out, however, in the 90th minute, an equaliser was crafted out of nothing to send the tie into overtime.

Seko Fofana’s first attempt from 18 yards pinballed off two defenders before falling to Simon Adringa, who clinically dispatched into the top left corner from close range.

IVORY COAST EXTRA-TIME DRAMA

In the 30 additional minutes, both sides brought the same intensity as the prior 90, but as it unfolded, both momentum and history favoured the home nation.

Sébastien Haller first came close when striking the bar with a header, then just as it seemed penalties would be required, a winner was found in stoppage time at the end of extra time.

In the most dramatic fashion, another Fofana shot crept through a crowded penalty area and was flicked in by Oumar Diakite.

The home support went wild, tempers flared at FT as Diakite and Hamari Traore were shown red cards each, and critically, it will be Ivory Coast that faces the Democratic Republic of Congo for a place in the final.

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