Winless Algeria crash out of AFCON after Ivory Coast loss

Ivory Coast have sent the defending champions of the Africa Cup of Nations home following a 3-1 victory

Riyahd Mahrez of Algeria with hands in head

The Elephants of Côte d'Ivoire on Thursday defeated the Desert Foxes of Algeria 3-1 to send the defending champions out of the belated 2021 AFCON tournament. 

Having collected just one point from their first two group games the supposed whipping boys of Group E: Equatorial Guinea and Sierra Leone, Algeria were under immense pressure to defeat an Ivory Coast side that matched them for quality on paper. 

And it was the West African nation who began the game at a frenetic pace drawing first blood in the 7th minute when Ghislian Konan weaved through a very lazy defence and found Nicolas Pepe who could only shoot high from an acute angle.

If there was intent from the Algerians, it failed to surface on the field of play as they were pinned back by the ravenous Elephants

Shortly past the first quarter-hour, Nicolas Pepe once again showed the threat he possessed when he cut in on his left foot and let fly from range but his shot was firmly grasped by Rais M'Bohli. 

Algeria finally showed a hint of fight in the 20th minute when a short corner routine found Ismael Bennacer whose well struck shot crashed the side-post.

It was a missed chance they were left to rue as moments later, Ivory Coast took the lead following an intricate three-way passing move between Max Gradel, Nicolas Pepe and Franck Kessie, with the Milan man converting the final touch from the Arsenal man’s pass.

Ten minutes later, Côte d’Ivoire had a chance to double their lead when a searching ball by captain Serge Aurier was begging to be turned home, but neither of Gradel or Haller could reach.

With the well-marshaled Ivorian defence proving difficult to navigate, the Foxes resorted to long balls and this almost paid of when Aissa Mandi's travelling pass found Youssef Belaili, who was let down by an heavy first touch. 

Just as they were blunt in attack, Algeria were equally lacking in defence and found themselves further behind when Serge Aurier's free-kick was powered home by an unmarked Ibrahim Sangaré.

As the frustration grew in the Algerian camp, so also did the confidence with the Ivorians and they probably got overconfident when they lost the ball trying to play out from the back.

The subsequent loose ball saw Bilial within sight of the Elephants’ goal but his tame effort was straight at Badra Sangaré.

This turned out the last notable highlight of the match with Algeria going into the break with a mountain to climb. 

Ivory Coast began the second half from where they left off with Serge Aurier at the centre of every penetrating piece of play. 

The Villarreal man first delivered a wicked cross that just evaded Haller, before fizzing a long-range effort wide moments later. 

Before seen minutes into the second half had elapsed, he was once again at the thick of things, creating an opening that put Pepe within a clear sight of goal. 

But the former Lille man was denied by M'Bolhi's outstretched leg.

The torrents of attack proved too incessant to hold back and Algeria were finally punished in the 54th minute by a Nicolas Pepe shimmy and well-placed shot.

The Algerians were not without luck the whole evening, as they had a slice of fortune in the 60th when Simon Deli was adjudged to have brought down Youssef Belaili despite replays showing there was minimal if any contact from the Turkey-based defender.

The Ivorians would have felt justified with the outcome of the penalty as Mahrez’s well placed drive was too perfect, ricochetting off the bottom right post in a costly miss from the skipper. 

Algeria finally got their first goal of the tournament in the 74th minute via a brilliant corner routine that culminated in Aissa Mand cutting back for an unmarked Sofiane Bendebka who headed home.

With the wind now in the sails of the Desert Foxes, they threw all their might at the Elephants and would have been rewarded had M'Balhi not pull off a spectacular save to deny Slimani’s close range header from a Mahrez free-kick.

The Algerians were not going down easy however as Brahimi was the next to squeeze another superb save out of M'Balhi from a direct free-kick.

Nicolas Pepe who was full of tricks and dripping with quality all game had one more trick up his sleeves as the game ebbed off to a finale. 

The 26-year-old's marauding run found Max Gradel on the wings, but the Sivasspor man’s shot was easily caught by Bomel.

Time was not on their side anymore, and as the Desert Foxes lay lying left for dead, the Elephants hammered the final nail onto the coffin from when Haller headed home in injury time. 

But despite the wild celebrations, the goal was ruled out for offside and the Foxes were left to rot in the Cameroon heat.

The loss was Algeria's second in four days having gone unbeaten in their previous 35 in all competitions, just two shy off the world record of 37.

Rather than a Guinness world record, they babe now secured the unwanted record of becoming the first title holder to lose two Africa Cup of Nations group stage games since Cameroon in 1990.