Africa Cup of Nations 2019: Kodjia fires Ivory Coast past South Africa




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Jonathan Kodjia scored his ninth international goal in Ivory Coast’s 1-0 win over South Africa on Monday

Aston Villa’s Jonathan Kodjia scored the only goal of the game as Ivory Coast edged past South Africa in their opening Group D encounter.

Kodjia latched on to Max Gradel’s precise pass before sidefooting through the legs of goalkeeper Ronwen Williams.

Nicolas Pepe struck the woodwork in the first half, while Thulani Hlatshwayo headed inches over the bar for South Africa with the score still goalless.

Morocco defeated Namibia 1-0 in Sunday’s Group D opener.

Ivory Coast – who left Crystal Palace talisman Wilfried Zaha on the bench in Cairo – enjoyed the better of the openings and would have been disappointed not to go into half-time with a narrow lead.

Forward Pepe, who scored 23 goals in 41 appearances for Ligue 1 runners-up Lille last season, rattled the crossbar with a curling free-kick after being tripped on the edge of the penalty area.

Kodjia should have put the Elephants ahead moments later after latching on to Hlatshwayo’s poor clearance, but the 29-year-old fired straight at Williams with the goal gaping.

Hlatshwayo missed Bafana Bafana’s best chance, heading Sifiso Hlanti’s cross wide of the mark with the score still goalless, while Williams tipped another goal-bound Pepe free-kick over the bar late on.

Ibrahim Kamara’s side take on Morocco in their next Group D game on Friday (18:00 BST), while South Africa face Namibia later that day (21:00 BST).

Analysis

By BBC Africa’s Nick Cavell:

The big surprise of the first half was that Crystal Palace forward Wilfried Zaha was only on the bench. His guile and tricky runs could have helped the Elephants create more chances than the two they had.

In the end, it was veteran Max Gradel whose experience led to the only goal. Zaha did come on and showed a few moments of trickery but was unable to make a scoring impact.

South Africa managed to put together a few pressing moves on the counter-attack but the movement seemed more lateral than forward.

They tried to take advantage of set pieces when they could but with Serge Aurier marshalling the Ivory Coast defence they held firm.

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