Africa Cup of Nations 2013: Gervinho strikes late to secure Ivory Coast win
Africa Cup of Nations 2013: Arsenal striker Gervinho scores in the 88th minute for Ivory Coast as Togo's resolve is broken
Gervinho’s late strike secured maximum points for the Ivory Coast in their Africa Cup of Nations opener against Togo in Rustenburg.
The 25-year-old hasn’t scored for Arsenal since October but his 88th minute strike put the highly-fancied Ivorians into a strong early position in Group D.
Yara Toure put The Elephants in control early on but Jonathon Ayite levelled the scores on the stroke of half-time.
Underdogs Togo had a great chance to go ahead inside two minutes, but Tottenham Hotspur striker Emmanuel Adebayor failed to get his shot off when through on goal.
Proving to be a costly miss, Ivory Coast then took the lead on eight minutes – Toure firing home Gervinho’s cut-back, via Komlan Amewou’s deflection.
The Sparrow Hawks looked to hit back through Serge Gakpe, but his shot from distance flew just wide of the right post on 15 minutes.
The striker was proving to be Togo’s main threat, with his 25-yard free-kick flying over on the half hour.
And shortly after Toure’s shot hit the post for Ivory Coast, Ayite volleyed in Gakpa’s corner to draw Togo level.
Looking to recover from conceding their first AFCON goal since 2010, the Elephants had a chance on 55 minutes, but Togo keeper Kossi Agassa blocked Didier Ya Konan’s shot.
With former Chelsea man Didier Drogba struggling to make an impact, Ivory Coast manager Sabri Lamouchi replaced his captain with Wilfried Bony on 73 minutes.
Playing with more urgency, the Ivorians had a great chance to take the lead shortly afterwards, but Toure shot straight at keeper Agassa from inside the box.
With the clock ticking down, the Elephants had Cheick Tiote to thank for deflecting over Vincent Bossou’s shot for the Togolese.
And minutes afterwards, Gervinho gave the Ivorians the lead, sweeping home at the back post after Togo keeper Agassa failed to claim Toure’s freekick.
There was still time for further drama, as Ayite header from Adebayor’s flick was superbly kept out by Ivorian keeper Boubacar Barry.
It proved to be decisive as the Elephants picked up three points to put them in control of group D ahead of tonight’s match between Tunisia and Algeria.