Ivory Coast settle for draw in ANC opener while DR Congo beat Morocco

Emmanuel Adebayor and Togo secured a point from Monday’s draw.

Ivory Coast‘s Europe-based stars stumbled in the heat of northern Gabon in their African Nations Cup opener, with the defending champions held to a goalless draw by Togo on Monday in another twist to start the tournament.

Ivory Coast created few clear chances against Togo, with Wilfried Zaha’s blocked shot in the second half after a clever run probably its best.

Togo started better as Mathieu Dossevi went clear on goal in the 29th minute, only for Ivorian goalkeeper Sylvain Gbohouo to smother the chance.

Zaha was at the heart of Ivory Coast’s attacks, first when he sped down the right wing and sent across a dangerous low cross that was scrambled away.

But Togo were competitive and had two good openings with around 10 minutes to go, when Kodjo Laba missed with a header from in front of goal and Dossevi’s deflected shot dropped onto the roof of the net.

Zaha’s best chance came in the 68th minute when he tricked his marker with a clever turn, cut inside, and hit a low shot that was headed to goal before two Togo defenders managed to get in the way.

Zaha, who switched his international allegiance from England ahead of the tournament, was substituted two minutes later and, although Ivory Coast pressed hard in stages, they never broke open Togo’s well-drilled defense in the first game in Group C in the northern jungle town of Oyem.

Four of the first six games at the African Cup have been draws, with Ivory Coast’s fellow title challenger, Algeria, held to 2-2 by Zimbabwe, a team that haven’t qualified for the African Cup in over a decade.

Also, hosts Gabon couldn’t beat outsiders and tournament debutants Guinea-Bissau in the opening game.

“After Algeria-Zimbabwe and Gabon-Guinea-Bissau, we were very careful,” Ivory Coast coach Michel Dussuyer said. “But we still have two [group] matches so we are still confident.”

Junior Kabananga and DR Congo held off Morocco to open with a win.

Meanwhile, the coach who led Ivory Coast to the title in 2015 fared even worse than his former team as his Morocco fell 1-0 to DR Congo in the day’s second game.

After Morocco midfielder M’Bark Boussoufa hit the crossbar in the second minute, Junior Kabananga got the winner for DR Congo in the 55th minute after a mistake from Morocco keeper Munir.

The goalkeeper tried to block a cross with his feet and managed only to divert the ball to Kabananga.

DR Congo’s Joyce Lomalisa was sent off for a wild tackle in the 81st minute and they then had to play with nine men for a time when captain Gabriel Zakuani went off injured with all their substitutes used up.

Still, victory was a major mood-changer for DR Congo, whose players refused to train on Friday and Saturday, claiming they hadn’t been paid tournament bonuses. They also posted a video on social media during their strike, where they complained about their treatment.

Although Ivory Coast and later Renard failed their first tests at the tournament, the Stade d’Oyem held up despite a desperate race to be ready in time, which saw workers scrambling around the venue finishing all sorts of jobs on the day of the game. Television viewers won’t have seen the construction debris that surrounds the outside of the stadium, which juts out of dense jungle canopy around 15 kilometres outside of Oyem.

Even organisers couldn’t do anything about the heat during the opening match, though, with Togo coach Claude le Roy’s shirt covered in dark sweat patches after urging his team on to a promising draw against the defending champion Ivorians.

“It was very hot. We were sweating so much,” Le Roy said. “We did what it takes. We are satisfied with the draw.”

Source: ESPN