Ivory Coast picked up their first three points at this year’s African Cup of Nations with a 1-0 win against Cameroon to top Group D and set up a quarter-final against Algeria.
Both teams came into this game with all to play for, with all four nations in their group locked on two points after their previous clashes had all ended in 1-1 draws.
As expected, it proved to be a tense affair at the Estadio de Malabo, but one Ivory Coast were best able to deal with, with Max Gradel’s brilliant first-half strike proving to be the difference.
Gradel picked up the ball in space well outside the area and burst forward, before picking out the top corner with a superb effort that left Fabrice Ondoa with no chance.
Ivory Coast were good value for the win - with Cameroon struggling in the final third, while Ondoa was the busier of the two goalkeepers - and so on the Elephants march into the last eight with their hopes of a first African Cup of Nations title since 1992 remaining alive.
19 - GREAT SAVE! What a chance for Ivory Coast as Aurier gets his head onto a free-kick into the box, but Ondoa does brilliantly to get down low and tip wide.
35 - GOAL! Cameroon 0-1 Ivory Coast: What a strike from Gradel to break the deadlock for Ivory Coast... He receives the ball well outside the box and manages to pick out the top corner. A stunning effort.
38 - STANDS STRONG! Cameroon almost with an instant reply as Salli latches onto a ball from Mbia, but he is unable to find a way past Gbohouo. Great stop.
45+3 - ANOTHER MISS! It is Salli again who almost levels the scores on the stroke of half-time, but he can only direct his strike over the bar after doing well to bring down Moukandjo's pass.
64 - COUNTER-ATTACK! Ivory Coast hit Cameroon on the break as Bony picks up the ball and bears down on goal, but he can't find a way past Ondoa.
80 - WASTED! Cameroon finally work a decent move as Kweuke gets down the right before finding Aboubakar, but he mishits his shot and it rolls wide.
Cameroon have now gone eight African Cup of Nations games without a clean sheet.
Ivory Coast are now unbeaten in their last 14 African Cup of Nations group games.
Can Ivory Coast build on this and go all the way? The Elephants’ performances leading up to this game had hardly caused shockwaves, nor sent out a message that they can win this competition. They were not at the top of their game here either, but with a victory now under their belts they will head into the knockout stages with a new belief instilled. The only problem is tournament favourites and highest-ranked team in the competition Algeria await next.
MAN OF THE MATCH
Max Gradel (Ivory Coast): A stunning goal from Gradel was worthy of settling any game and what an important strike it was. The Saint-Etienne man was also one of his side’s most dangerous players going forward, often causing Cameroon’s defence problems.
Cameroon: Ondoa 8, Guihoata 6, Nkoulou 5, Chedjou 6, Bedimo 6, Mandjeck 6, Mbia 6, Salli 5, Moukandjo 6, Choupo-Moting 5, Etoundi 5. Subs: Aboubakar 6, Kweuke 6, N'Jie 6.
Ivory Coast: Gbohouo 7, Aurier 8, K. Toure 7, Bailly 6, Kanon 6, Tiene 6, Serey Die 6, Gradel 8, Y. Toure 6, Bony 6, Doumbia 5. Subs: Viera 6, Tallo 6, Doukoure 6.