AFCON 2021African FootballCompetitionNEWS

AFCON 2021: Champions Algeria crash out after Ivory Coast hammering

Equatorial Guinea join Elephants in last 16

Algeria saw their title defence at AFCON 2021 end in tears after they suffered a 3-1 bashing at the hands of the Elephants of Ivory Coast at the Japoma Stadium in Douala in their Group E finale.

The Desert Foxes of Algeria faced a must-win encounter against the group leaders Ivory Coast after they drew against Sierra Leone and lost to Equatorial Guinea in sensational fashion.

Algeria started the match with a lot of hunger and had the lion share of possession in the early stages, but the Elephants were too solid to be broken down.

It was Ivory Coast that got the game’s opener as Arsenal winger Nicolas Pepe did brilliantly to stay onside and tee up AC Milan midfielder Franck Kessie to casually sidefoot home from close range in the 23rd minute to put the Elephants in front against Algeria.

Algeria struggled to create any clear-cut chances against a well-drilled Ivorian side and soon found themselves further behind as the Elephants doubled their advantage in style.

A free-kick from Ivory Coast captain Serge Aurier found midfielder Ibrahim Sangare free in the box, and the 24-year-old PSV man powered home a header from close range in the 39th minute to put the Elephants firmly in the driver’s seat.

The second half resumed in a similar fashion as the Algeria side kept possession of the ball, but failed to do anything meaningful with it. They found themselves further behind inside the first ten minutes of the second half.

The impressive Nicolas Pepe brilliantly found the corner of Rais M’bolhi’s goal after he received a pass from Sebastien Haller in the box to put the Elephants three-nil up after 54 minutes of the encounter.

After conceding the third goal, the Algerians finally came out of their shell, with Youcef Belaili in particular proving to be a thorn in the Ivorians’ flesh. The enterprising forward won his side a penalty after a mazy run in the Ivory Coast box, but Riyad Mahrez struck his 60th minute penalty against the foot of the post.

Algeria coach Djamel Belmadi sent experienced midfielder Yacine Brahimi on, and the former FC Porto man added a spark to their attack immediately. The Desert Foxes pulled one back to set up a grandstand finish.

A cross from the lively Belaili was hooked over his shoulder by Aissa Mandi for substitute Sofiane Bendebka to head home from close range in the 73rd minute.

The goal spurred the champions on, and Ivory Coast goalkeeper Badra Sangare had to pull off a top-drawer save to deny Islam Slimani from point-blank range.

Ivory Coast maintained a stranglehold on the game and saw further goals from Kessie and Haller ruled out for offside as they closed out an impressive 3-1 result.

In the group’s other game, Pablo Ganet scored an absolute screamer for Equatorial Guinea as they pipped Sierra Leone 1-0 to book a place in the last 16.

Holders Algeria finished bottom of Group E with only one point from three games as Ivory Coast finished on top of the pile with seven points and Equatorial Guinea had six points.

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