Ivory Coast 3-1 Algeria: Pepe shines in comfortable win as holders suffer early exit


efending champions Algeria crashed out of the Africa Cup of Nations in the group stage after a 3-1 defeat to Ivory Coast.

They went into the match knowing they had to win to reach the knockout stages, but first-half goals from Franck Kessie and Ibrahima Sangare made their task an almost impossible one.

Nicolas Pepe then killed off any hopes of a comeback shortly after the break, before Riyad Mahrez’s penalty missed added further misery to a painful performance from his side. Sofiane Bendebka pulled one back for Algeria, but their AFCON aspirations were long gone. Ivory Coast will face Egypt in the last 16.

It’s been a dismal tournament for Algeria, who finish bottom of Group E and managed just one goal in the whole tournament. Having been on a 35-match unbeaten run, it’s now two defeats in a row and an early flight home.

With so much riding on the match, the holders unsurprisingly started quickly but Mahrez could only send a free-kick from a dangerous position straight into the wall.

Algeria then caught Ivory Coast napping with a quick free-kick, as Ismael Bennacer whipped an effort towards goal as it came to him from a tight angle and it clipped off the outside of the post.

After 23 minutes, the defending champions’ task became an even more difficult one. Pepe played a one-two on the edge of the box and then produced a perfect cut-back into the path of Kessie who volleyed it in from close-range for the opening goal.

And Ivory Coast doubled their lead five minutes before the break. Serge Aurier whipped in a free-kick from deep, and some dreadful Algerian defending left Sangare completely free at the back post to make it 2-0 with a powerful header.

There was only team that looked like scoring straight after the break, with Ivory Coast cutting Algeria apart on the break. Pepe had a shot well saved, while Aurier flashed a shot wide from distance.

But the third goal did come, as once again Ivory Coast broke into space. Sebastien Haller played it to Pepe, and he worked it onto his left foot and sent a curling effort into the far corner.

AFP via Getty Images

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