Malabo - An 86th minute strike by substitute Max Gradel gave Cote d’Ivoire a deserved point as they played to a 1-1 draw against Mali in Group D’s second round at Estadio de Malabo in Equatorial Guinea on Saturday night.
As early as the sixth minute, Bakary Sako managed to give the Malians the lead with what one could call ‘a goal against the run of play’ and it took the Elephants 86 minutes to find an equaliser when substitute Max Gradel’s left footed shot beat substitute goalkeeper Germain Berthe from a wonderful cross by Serge Aurier.
The Eagles found the back through Sako with his left footed finish from the centre of the box beating the goalkeeper Sylvain Gbohouo, courtesy of a beautiful cross by Sambou Yatabare.
Herve Renard’s men played better after Mali took the lead and had to play with a sense of urgency in search of an equaliser. After 20 minutes of play, forward Seydou Doumbia saw his right footed shot from the centre of the box going wide to the right.
The Eagles were not so effective in their play and were closed down by the likes of Kolo Toure and Siaka Tiene at the back, and in the 32nd minute an attempt by Kolo hit the woodwork from a beautiful header assisted by his brother Yaya with a cross.
Renard was becoming a frustrated man towards the interval as his men kept possession and surged forward looking to settle the score. However, Mali received an indirect free-kick after a shocking back pass to Sewe Sport goalkeeper Ghohouo, but they wasted a chance to double their lead as Bakary Sako’s attempt went straight to the wall.
The first-half ended with Henryk Kasperzcak’s men leading by 1-0 and the second stanza began on a high with the Ivorians piling on pressure on the Malians, led by the modest Yaya.
With 10 to 15 minutes of play in the second half, Tiene’s set piece went for a goal-kick with a flick from Wilfried Bony. In the 63rd minute, Bony again displayed a great touch, running off from his marker but his final shot could not trouble keeper Diakite.
With less than 15 minutes to go, Ghobouo fumbled with a cross but luckily for him Serge Kanon came to his rescue with a convincing clearance.
In the 86th minute, substitute Gradel met a pinpoint cross from Aurier and he easily tapped it in with his left, giving the keeper Berthe no chance.
With few minutes to go, the Ivorians looked like they could steal the match as substitute Salomon Kalou managed to make an entry into the box but his cross was dealt with by Mustapha Yatabare.
The result leave both sides with two points in the group and it remains wide open as the result from the Cameroon and Guinea match could determine who progresses through to the next round.