Douala (AFP) – A stunning early strike by Max-Alain Gradel gave the Ivory Coast a 1-0 win over Equatorial Guinea in their opening game of the Africa Cup of Nations in Douala on Wednesday.
Gradel, the former Bournemouth and Saint-Etienne winger who now plays club football in Turkey, fired home an unstoppable shot from 20 metres in the fifth minute at the Japoma Stadium that proved enough for the Elephants.
The 34-year-old, whose father died shortly before the start of the tournament, appeared to be in tears as his team-mates came across to celebrate the goal.
It is the ideal start for the 2015 African champions in Group E after reigning champions Algeria were held to a 0-0 draw by Sierra Leone at the same venue on Tuesday.
The Ivorians play Sierra Leone in their next match on Sunday, before Algeria take on Equatorial Guinea.
The result also maintains the average of just one goal per game across the tournament with every side now having played once.
Since hosts Cameroon beat Burkina Faso 2-1 in the opening match on Sunday, there have been two goalless draws and the remaining nine encounters have all been decided by a single goal.
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