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Last-minute goals lift Ivory Coast and Tunisia
23 Jan 2013

RUSTENBURG — Ivory Coast striker Gervinho scored an 88th-minute winner to give the pre-tournament favourites a battling 2-1 win over Togo in their opening Africa Nations Cup Group D encounter at the Royal Bafokeng Sports Palace yesterday.
The match seemed destined to become the sixth of the seven played so far at Afcon to finish all square before Gervinho swept a Yaya Toure free-kick high into the Togo net.
Both teams had chances to win the game after Toure put Ivory Coast ahead in the eighth minute and Jonathan Ayite scored Togo’s equaliser just before half-time.
That was the first goal the Ivorians had conceded in the finals since 2010 after keeping a clean sheet in every match last year when they drew the final 0-0 with Zambia, then lost on penalties.
Despite the allure of some of African football’s top names, the stadium was sparsely populated with easily the lowest attendance of the tournanent so far.
Fans almost saw a goal after kickoff when Togo’s Emmanuel Adebayor stole the ball from Kolo Toure on the edge of the penalty area.
Adebayor seemed certain to score from close range with only Ivory Coast keeper Boubacar Barry to beat, but he inexplicably decided to round the keeper instead of shoot when he had the chance and he lost control of the ball.
Toure was far more emphatic when his chance came in the eighth minute following good work by Gervinho on the right wing, who managed to evade two defenders before cutting the ball back.
Toure’s powerful shot took a deflection on its way past Togo keeper Kossi Agassa.
The Ivorians largely controlled the match for the rest of the half by forcing Togo to defend deeply, but their opponents were never out of contention, especially when Serge Gapke had the ball.
After setting up several chances, fittingly it was Gapke who took the corner that led to the equaliser just before the break when the Ivory Coast defenders failed to deal with his cross, which Jonathan Ayite hooked home.
In the closing stages, Toure’s superb cross looped over Agassa and was met by Gervinho who was swamped by jubilant team-mates after his precious late strike.
Also last night, Youssef Msakni struck in the final minute to hand Tunisia a 1-0 win over Algeria in a scrappy Maghreb derby.
Msakni, a recent signing for Qatar club Lakhouya, lived up to his nickname of the “Little Mozart” with a superb strike to settle a game that had otherwise failed miserably to justify its billing as one of the headline ties of the opening round.
The neighbours, both former champions, were meeting for the first time in the 56-year Afcon.
Ivory Coast 1 1 0 0 2 1 1 3
Tunisia 1 1 0 0 1 0 1 3
Togo 1 0 0 1 1 2 -1 0
Algeria 1 0 0 1 0 1 -1 0

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