Gabon Stun Ivory Coast In WC Qualifiers

Ivory Coast’s hopes of reaching a fourth straight World Cup took a knock when beaten 2-1 at home by Gabon. Ivory Coast had been tipped by the media to be the team to qualify for the World Cup from a group consisting of Gabon, Mali and Morocco.

Gabon claimed a shock lead in the 19th minute when a deflected long-range shot fell into the path of striker Alex Meye Me Ndong, who swept the ball past the Ivory Coast goalkeeper Sylvain Gbohouo to make it 1-0. The Panthers doubled their advantage 10 minutes later through an absolute screamer of a long-range goal from Southampton midfielder Mario Lemina.

Yet Gabon suffered a major blow in injury time at the end of the first half when defender Lloyd Palun picked up his second yellow card and was given his marching orders. Ivory Coast soon took advantage of their numerical advantage to bring themselves back into the game. Substitute Maxwell Cornet latched onto a fine through ball and fired home a left-footed shot to halve the deficit. Yet that was as good as it got for the home side, who were unable to fight their way to parity in the remaining time and suffered a loss which will put the pressure back on coach Marc Wilmots.

Gabon’s surprise win was achieved despite the absence of key striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, with the Borussia Dortmund attacker refusing to honour international call-ups recently. The slip-up meant Morocco would have topped Group C with a win in Mali but they missed a penalty in a 0-0 draw. Ivory Coast stay on seven points from four games, while Morocco move up to six points following their draw. The result leaves Ivory Coast at the top of the log on seven points, while Gabon move level with Morocco on five points.

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