African Cup of Nations – Algeria stun Ivory Coast
Algeria came from the brink of being knocked out to beat favourites Ivory Coast 3-2 after extra-time in a remarkable African Cup of Nations quarter-final in Cabinda, Angola.
Elephants substitute Adbul-Kader Keita netted a spectacular goal to make it 2-1 with a minute remaining but Rangers defender Madjid Bougherra headed the Desert Foxes level deep into injury time.
Hameur Bouazza, on as a sub at the start of extra-time, scored with his second touch as Algeria began to over-run the tired Ivorians in the latter stages.
The North African side should have scored a fourth, but were lucky not to end up in a shoot-out as Kolo Toure was denied a legitimate equaliser when incorrectly ruled offside at the death.
Salomon Kalou had put the Ivory Coast in front early on, with Karim Matmour levelling five minutes before the break in a battling performance by Rabah Saabane’s side that showed the same kind of determination that saw them beat Egypt in a World Cup qualification play-off.
The Ivory Coast started with intent and took an early lead when Yaya Toure’s shot deflected off Bougherra into the path of Kalou, who had the freedom of the box to control and fire low past Fawzi Chaouchi.
Didier Drogba was denied what he felt was a penalty when, after racing on to Gervinho‘s through ball, Rafik Halliche slid in and seemed to bring the Chelsea striker down. Seychellois referee Eddy Maillet was unimpressed with Drogba, but also ignored Bougherra’s demands that he caution the striker for diving.
Ivorian full-back Saka Tiene then went close, racing past Matmour and firing into the side netting, but as the half progressed his team sat back as Algeria, in need of a goal, came out of their shell for the first time in the tournament.
Five minutes shy of the break the Desert Foxes earned a deserved equaliser when, after the Ivorians seemed to have cleared the danger from a succession of corners, a long ball from Yazid Mansouri was flicked on by Bougherra to Matmour on the edge of the box.
The Borussia Moenchengladbach midfielder had it all to do, but finished superbly as he turned away from Cheik Tiote’s challenge and rattled a wicked drive in off the left-hand post.
Chaouchi was called into action on the stroke of half-time, using his feet to clear Gervinho’s cross from the increasingly isolated Drogba, and they went into the dressing room level after an entertaining opening 45 minutes.
The second half begun slowly but burst into life nine minutes in as Matmour volleyed over after Mourad Meghni played a clever ball over the top.
Kalou missed a gilt-edged chance for the Ivorians, drilling his finish wide after going all the hard work to get away from Antar Yahia and Halliche, while Drogba mis-kicked a far-post volley that normally he would bury.
But as the game progressed the Algerians grew in confidence as Ziani smacked a low drive into the side netting after evading Guy Demel on the left, while Matmour spurned a wonderful chance for his second when he shot straight at the keeper after begin gifted a free run on goal by the bumbling Ivorian defence.
On 74 minutes a goalmouth scramble almost yielded an Algeria goal, but first Matmour and then Abdelkader Ghezzal were denied but some frantic defending by the Elephants.
The Ivorians woke up and Yaya Toure drilled inches wide after Kalou found him on the edge of the box.
They missed a one-on-one of their own when substitute Keita went on a surging run to find Gervinho, who evaded a rash challenge from Bougherra to be clean through but then fired wildly over.
The failed assist was Keita’s first touch, and his second was even better. In the last minute of normal time the Galatasary forward cut inside from the right and, from 25 yards, unleashed an unstoppable drive that flashed into the top left.
It was a contender for goal of the tournament; but while the Ivorians celebrated a victory, Bougherra had other ideas.
Playing as a makeshift centre-forward, the Rangers stopper snuck in at the far post to head Belhadj’s cross past the flailing Barry to force extra-time.
His second touch was better though, creeping between a hapless Ivorian defence to nod Ziani’s far-post cross into the bottom left.
Eight minutes into extra-time Drogba made a rare contribution, forcing a superb save from Chaouchi with a rasping drive from the edge of the box.
Both sets of players were tiring, with Chaouchi picking up a back injury after an innocuous landing while claiming the ball and clearly struggling despite two minutes of treatment.
Algeria started to over-run their opponents, who appeared to have given up and were fortunate not to concede a fourth when Ghezzal somehow missed from six yards and sub Djamel Abdoun fired wide after he and Matmour raced clear of the defence.
Kolo Toure thought he had levelled one minute into stoppage time at the end of extra-time but the linesman flagged, with replays showing he was clearly behind a flat back-line when played through.
The luck was with Algeria though as they completed a mini-upset, putting to bed their horrific 3-0 opening game defeat to Malawi in style.
African Cup of Nations:
Monday 4:00pm Egypt v Cameroon LIVE on British Eurosport and the Player
Monday 7:30pm Zambia v Nigeria LIVE on British Eurosport and the Player
Reda Maher / Eurosport