Ivory Coast beat Nigeria 2-1 to win third AFCON title

Simon Adingra set up two goals as host country Ivory Coast come from behind to beat Nigeria 2-1 to win the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) title.

Simon Adingra set up two goals as host country Ivory Coast come from behind to beat Nigeria 2-1 to win the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) title.

Adingra assisted Franck Kessie to make it 1-1 in the second half before racing to the byline and crossing for Sebastien Haller to score and give Ivory Coast their third AFCON title, and first since 2015 on Sunday night.

Haller proved the hero, scoring the decisive goal as Ivory Coast completed a sensational comeback. The hosts looked doomed after William Troost-Ekong’s first half opener for Nigeria in Abidjan.

But Kessie levelled right after the break before Haller, who recovered from cancer last year, sparked ecstatic scenes by firing the late winner. With the backing of the crowd, it came as no surprise for the hosts to take control of the game from the opening whistle, while Nigeria opted for the counter.

Haller was the first to ask questions of Stanley Nwabali after almost snatching an early lead from a well-taken cross by Adingra for the ball but his stretched-out leg could not reach.

Veteran attacker, Max Gradel showed great improvisation in the 20th minute with an unexpected acrobatic strike that caught the entire defence off guard but was unlucky to see his strike hit the side netting.

Ivory Coast’s momentum was cut short just before the break after a lapse in concentration by the Ivorian defense in a corner saw Nigerian skipper, Ekong rise above his markers to head home the opener to give his side the lead.

Coming back from the recess, the hosts despite being a goal down, continued with their great attacking momentum against a stubborn Nigerian defence. On the hour mark, a stinging strike from range by Kouakou Kossounou sent almost found the bottom corner but was parried to safety by Nwabali.

It was from the resulting corner that the Ivory Coast found the back of the net thanks to a delightful delivery from Adingra that connected with Kessie, who levelled matters with a header.

The backing of the roaring crowd continued to rally the hosts forward as they increased the tempo with the troublesome Adingra being a menace to the Nigerian defense.

The 22-year-old caused more harm to the Nigerians after doing well to dribble past Zaidu Sanusi to send a cross that saw Haller get the all-important lead in the 81st minute.

With victory in-sight, the hosts held on for the historic win that saw them rise to the highest seat of continental football as champions of Africa.

It capped an incredible turnaround for Cote d’Ivoire after almost crashing out in the group stages. Their campaign appeared over after a disastrous 4-0 loss to Equatorial Guinea.

(IANS)