AFCON: Jonathan Kodjia strikes sees Ivory Coast scrape past South Africa –

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Jonathan Kodjia’s second-half strike was enough to hand the Ivory Coast victory in their Group D opener against South Africa in the Africa Cup of Nations. [WATCH THE AFRICA CUP OF NATIONS LIVE ON EUROSPORT AND EUROSPORT PLAYER] In the blistering near 40-degree heat at Cairo’s Al Salam Stadium, the match was ultimately played at a slow pace, and was not helped by the 46 fouls awarded by a whistle-happy referee. However, the Elephants managed to limp over the line, and having hit the bar through Nicolas Pepe in the first half, it was Villa forward Kodjia who made amends for missing a sitter before the break when slotting home from Max Gradel’s cross midway through the second half. The Ivory Coast face a challenging match against Morocco in their next group game on Friday, while South Africa will look to bounce back against Namibia later that same evening. TALKING POINT Slow start, but no need for Ivory Coast to panic – A win is a win, and in that heat, with that referee, the Ivory Coast will be delighted simply to come away with all three points. It was far from inspiring stuff, but they will no doubt improve, and the fact Wilfried Zaha started on the bench highlights the strength they have in the forward line as they look to go all the way in Egypt. MAN OF THE MATCH Max Gradel (Ivory Coast) – The brightest player in a relatively dull game. The former Leeds United and Bournemouth winger, now at Toulouse, was a constant threat down the left, and it was his quick-thinking which fed in Kodjia for the all-important winner. PLAYER RATINGS Ivory Coast: Gbohouo 6, Coulibaly 6, Traore 6, Aurier 6, Kanon 6, Kessie 7, Seri 6, Serey 7, Kodjia 7, Gradel 7, Pepe 7. Subs: Zaha 6, Doumbia N/A, Cornet N/A. Ivory Coast’s forward Jonathan Kodjia (L) fights for the ball with South Africa’s defender Buhle Mkhwanazi during the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (CAN) football match between Ivory Coast and South Africa at the Al Salam Stadium in Cairo on June 24, 2019.Getty Images South Africa: Williams 7, Mkhwanazi 6, Mkhize 7, Hlatshwayo 6, Hlanti 5, Zwane 5, Mokotjo 5, Furman 5, Maboe 5, Mothiba 5, Tau 5. Subs: Vilakazi 6, Veldwijk N/A. KEY MOMENTS 26’ – SO CLOSE! The corner bounces through but another cross comes in and finds Hlatshwayo, who heads narrowly wide of the top corner. 32’ – OFF THE BAR! After waiting an age for the referee to sort the wall out, Pepe is inches away from giving the Ivory Coast the lead, but his free-kick curls and cannons off the bar and out for a goal-kick. 33’ – BIG SAVE! What is Kodjia thinking?! He’s through on goal after a South Africa mistake but from eight yards out he absolutely leathers it and it hits Williams, who is at point-blank range to make the stop. All the VIlla striker had to do was compose himself and slot it either side! Ivory Coast’s forward Maxwel Cornet fights for the ball with South Africa’s forward Lebo Mothiba during the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (CAN) football match between Ivory Coast and South Africa at the Al Salam Stadium in Cairo on June 24, 2019.Getty Images 64’ – GOAAAAL!! KODJIA MAKES AMENDS! He was guilty of missing a sitter in the first half, but now the Villa man has put the Ivory Coast in front! South Africa gift them the ball, and Gradel’s quick cross from the left finds Kodjia free in the middle, and he takes a touch before sliding it under Williams. 85’ – NO PENALTY! The referee has been whistle-happy all match but he avoids blowing it on this occasion as Veldwijk goes down under pressure from Kanon inside the area. You’ve seen them given, and with this referee penalising all sorts this afternoon, it’s surprising to see him not point towards the spot! 89’ – BIG SAVE! Stunning stop from Williams, who flies over to his right to get fingertips to Pepe’s free-kick, which was destined for the top corner.