Ivory Coast 4 – Senegal 2

FHB crowd1

Highlighted by many as the undoubted pick of the Cup of Nations qualifying matches this weekend, the Ivory Coast – Senegal match was a roller-coaster but one which saw favourites Ivory Coast come out on top. Senegal, perhaps wisely, played defensively, but with their faboulous attack, they took the lead twice through a long range strike from Diame Ndoye and then a second half looping header from Papiss Cisse. Both times Ivory Coast got back in the match, first with a tap in from Kalou after great work on the left from Gervinho, and then a Gervinho goal, Drogba penalty and Gradel strike. Ivory Coast had two disallowed goals as well and the Senegalese keeper made some fantastic stops as well.

For all the drama, Ivory Coast’s experience paid off even if the ageing defence looked repeatedly under threat from Papiss and a midfielder centre that was struggling to make the link between defence and attack. Some of the blame must go to Keita, who for the second match in succession was given a rare starting chance, and disappointed. On the flip side, his replacement, Max Gradel, is one of the few fresh faces to really look sharp and offers considerable promise for the future. Gervinho, who has his far share of MIA games, was probably the player of the match – he’s learned to do a bit less dribbling and a bit more passing. Drogba played a subtler role, but a commanding one upfront creating space for other players. Kalou was disappointing and he was to blame for sloppily losing possession before the first goal. Overall though the attacking play really sparkled at times.

Much of the work now seems to be done, though of course the second tie still needs to be treated with care. It will be a shame not to see Senegal in South Africa as this youthful side looks like it has a lot to offer. They will perhaps rue trying to play it safe too soon – getting a goalkeeper booked for time wasting so early in the second half was a sign of a strategy employed far too early.

Starting XI

Copa, Eboue, Kolo, Bamba, Tiene, Keita (sub. Gradel), Yaya, Zokora, Gervinho, Kalou (sub. Arouna), Drogba (c)

Lemouchi’s post-match comments

“It’s not a result we got easily – it was difficult, we had to go through a range of emotions – me above all – but everything we’ve done since I got here has been difficult. I congratulate my players because perhaps today they didn’t have the legs for it, but they had the hearts for it. Next time we need to play a bit more with the head, and have a bit more of collective control because despite of everything we suffered even if at the end of the match, especially in the last 15 minutes, we had the chance to kill the match, but bravo to my boys who gave a lot, above all in difficulty, which shows that this group – in spite everything I’ve heard and read, is a group which gets on well together and has the desire to go right to the finish and they showed it this evening.

“No-one would bet that in such a match you’d have six goals – me first of all. We all saw the match and perhaps there will be different interpretations. For me, I think that we were scared and like I said and we struggled to open the scoring. Senegal defended very well and scored to magnificent goals – I think especially of the first one that perhaps we could have avoided. After, we will have the time to analyse not just the first half but the whole match. What I keep in mind at the moment is that they players looked for everything they had and finished with cramp. They played their hearts out in front of a capacity crowd, in front of all the Ivorian people, to get a victory. I’m lucky to have an exception group with very talented players and I’m trying to put something together. For me, the credibility of the players is enough. After, I don’t know if this match will satisfy public opinion, but what I saw, everyone saw as well, a team which is proud to wear the Ivorian jersey and played with heart.”

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