AFCON 2023: Defending champions out and hosts through as Ivory Coast dump Senegal through penalties

Former Barcelona star Franck Kessi scores the winning penalty as hosts Cote d’Ivoire evict Sadio Mane’s Senegal.

Ivory Coast beat Senegal through penalty shootouts, after a dominant performance in regular time, to advance to the quarter-finals of AFCON at the expense of the defending champions.

Barely qualifying as one of the best losers, the Ivorians came into the clash as the underdogs, against Aliou Cisse’s side, who were perfect in the group stage and also carried the tag of defending champions.

Senegal scored first, but the Ivorians found a late equaliser, no more than what they deserved, as they were better on the balance of play. The equaliser forced extra-time, and, after 30 minutes, penalty shootouts, with which the Elephants won 5-4.

How it happened 

Following the sacking of Jean-Louis Gasset and the failure to land Herve Renard on a temporary basis, former midfielder Emerse Fae was in the dugout for the hosts, and he made a few telling changes from the team the dumped Frenchman trusted.

Fae introduced Jean-Michael Seri and Odilon Kossounou into the team, dropping Franck Kessi and Wily Boly, who both started in the defeat to Equatorial Guinea.

Despite the changes, or as a result of them, Ivory Coast had a timid start to the game, and Senegal capitalised, scoring as early as the fourth minute after Sadio Mane’s delivery into the box was well taken by Habib Diallo and riffled into the roof of the net.

The hosts, however, roused themselves, found their footing, and dominated play for the remainder of the first-half, but struggled to find cracks in the Senegalese backline.

The second-half was a similar story, as other than short spells of incisive offensive play from Senegal, the Elephants had the bulk of possession. Contrary to the first 45, however, Cote d’Ivoire made the net bulge. 

With the clock running down, Fae shuffled the pack, exhausting his substitutions before the 80th-minute mark. The tactical moves paid off, as substitute Nicolas Pepe won the match-tying penalty thanks to a play involving fellow substitutes Sebastien Haller and Christian Kouame.

Pepe was clattered against by Eduoard Mendy, and although the referee waved play on, the decision was reviewed via VAR, and a penalty was awarded. Franck Kessi stepped up to take the penalty and effortlessly slotted past Mendy. The goal took the game to extra-time, and after a scoreless 30 minutes, penalties.

Both teams scored their first two attempts. Senegal blinked first, as Moussa Niakhite’s attempt went wide. Haller stepped up to take Ivory Coast’s third and had an error-free attempt. Both teams scored their remaining attempts, meaning Cote d’Ivoire went through to the next round.

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