Night of upsets: Nigeria silence hosts Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana hold Egypt

* The Super Eagles stood tall in the face of intense Ivorian pressure to land a psychological blow

* Egypt came back from behind twice to salvage a point against the Black Stars

Maravi Express

On a night of upsets, Nigeria landed a major blow in the race for Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) by defeating hosts Côte d’Ivoire 1-0 in Thursday’s titanic Group A clash, while Egypt came back twice from behind to get a point against the Black Stars of Ghana.

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In front of a packed Stade Alassane Ouattara in Abidjan, the two African heavyweights, Nigeria and Côte d’Ivoire, served up a pulsating contest and the Ivorian fans were silenced when William Troost-Ekong converted a 54th-minute penalty after Victor Osimhen was fouled.

Despite relentless roars of support, the Elephants could not find an equaliser as the Super Eagles held on for a famous victory as they managed the closing stages expertly to condemn the stunned Elephants to their first defeat.

The Super Eagles stood tall in the face of intense Ivorian pressure to land a psychological blow on one of Africa’s proudest footballing nations.

The 1-0 triumph lifts Nigeria level on four points with surprise package Equatorial Guinea at the Group A summit while Côte d’Ivoire remain third on three points and likely need to beat Equatorial Guinea to reach the knockouts.

Voted Man of the Match, Nigeria’s forward, Victor Osimhen — Italian side Napoli’s prolific striker and reigning African Player of the Year —

told a post-match press conference: “It’s a beautiful victory; we knew we would face a strong Côte d’Ivoire”.

Acknowledging the magnitude of the challenge posed by Côte d’Ivoire Osimhen added: “This match was a significant test for us, and we are thrilled to have overcome it.

“In the first match [against Equatorial Guinea], we had numerous chances that we didn’t capitalize on. Today wasn’t different; we maintained the same mentality, and we hope this victory brings joy to everyone. We will carry this mindset into the remainder of the competition.”

Looking ahead, the Nigerian team shifts their focus to the upcoming third match against Guinea-Bissau scheduled for Monday at the Stade Félix Houphouët Boigny in Abidjan.

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In Group C, Egypt came back from behind twice to salvage a point against the Black Stars of Ghana through Mohammed Kudu, who was introduced into Ghana’s starting line-up and yielded an instant result after the West Ham United attacker tried his luck from distance via Abdul Salis Samed’s assist to put Ghana 1-0 up. 

Egypt capitalized on a defensive howler from Inaki Williams as Omar Marmoush rounded up Richard Ofori to level matters for the Pharaohs on the 69th minute. 

It turned out to be a game for Kudus as he restored Ghana’s lead after receiving a pass from Denis Odoi at the edge of the penalty box to curl one to the far post which deflected to give Mohammed El Shenawy no chance of getting to it on the 71st minute for a 2-1 lead. 

The Pharaohs secured the second equalizer through Trezeguet Mostafa Mohammed to render the scoreline 2-2 on the 73rd minute.

Mohammed Kudus, who was voted Man of the Match said he was happy to be back: “I worked so hard to get back to the top and help my team, my nation. It’s important for me to be here.”

The West Ham striker couldn’t hide his frustration over their first loss, saying: “It’s a mixed feeling — as a forward, you want your goals to have an impact on the result.

“We made careless mistakes. Now we’ll have to get back to work, win the next one and then see what happens.

“We are not out. The objective remains the same, which is to take trophy home.”—Info from CAFonline

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