A late goal denied Ivory Coast all three points after they were held to a 2-2 draw by Sierra Leone in an Africa Cup of Nations
Group E clash at the Japoma Stadium on Sunday evening.
The Elephants went into the break a goal to the good thanks to Sebastien Haller’s 25th-minute opener, but a stunning strike from Musa Noah Kamara 10 minutes into the second half restored parity.
Nicolas Pepe thought he had secured victory for Patrice Beaumelle’s side on 65 minutes, only for Alhaji Kamara to level matters deep into stoppage time following a howler from Badra Ali Sangare.
The Ivorians bossed proceedings in the first half, although John Keister’s men grew into the game as half-time approached.
After Wilfried Zaha and Pepe went down inside the area in two separate incidents early on, the referee had no hesitation in pointing to the spot on the third occasion when the Crystal Palace winger was fouled by Umaru Bangura on the left.
However, Mohamed Nbalie Kamara pulled off heroics once more as he saved Franck Kessie’s penalty on 10 minutes to keep his team in the contest.
Cote d’Ivoire continued to create chances and Simon Deli headed well wide at the back post from a 13th-minute corner on the right before Kessie scuffed an effort wide of the left post moments later after being picked out by Haller’s cut-back inside the box on the right.
Pepe then struck a tame volley straight at Kamara on the quarter-hour mark, but the deadlock was finally broken 10 minutes later when Zaha threaded Haller through on goal and the Ajax Amsterdam striker volleyed home inside the right post from 12 yards out.
Ibrahim Sangare failed to keep his header down from a 28th-minute corner on the right, while Kamara made a fine save to deny Ghislain Konan five minutes later after the Reims defender raced clear through the middle following a swift counter.
The Leone Stars saw more of the ball in the closing stages of the first half and Mohamed Buya Turay was presented with a glorious opportunity to restore parity on 38 minutes when a lofted header sent him clean through on goal, but the forward failed to score with just the keeper to beat.
Back up the other end Konan advanced into the area on the right and looked to side-foot the ball into the far corner of the net, though it lacked the power necessary to beat Kamara.
The final chance of the half came the way of Sierra Leone on 43 minutes as Turay was picked out in space inside the box on the left, but his tame shot was easily saved by Sangare.
Pepe wasn’t far away from doubling his team’s lead with a free-kick that he curled narrowly wide of the left post on 53 minutes and just moments later the scores were level as Kamara rifled a shot beyond Sangare at his near post after being played in on the left by Turay.
Turay then had a sniff at goal on 58 minutes when Ivory Coast failed to clear their lines from a free-kick on the right, but his fierce strike flew over the crossbar.
However, the Elephants went back in front seven minutes later courtesy of a clinical finish from Pepe, who curled the ball beyond Kamara from the edge of the box after being teed up by Sangare.
Kessie was unable to lift the ball over an advancing Kamara on 68 minutes after being slipped in by Haller on the right, while at the other end goalscorer Kamara powered a header over the target from a 75th-minute free-kick on the right.
Zaha was denied twice in the space of five minutes as his first-time shot was kept out at the back post by the keeper before Kei Kamara cleared his next effort off the line with nine minutes remaining.
It proved crucial as the Leone Stars equalised at the death. Sangare somehow spilled a header back towards his goal which allowed Kamara to pounce from just a few yards out with the keeper lying prone on the left byline.
Ivory Coast (1) 2 (Haller 25′, Pepe 65′)
Sierra Leone (0) 2 (M.Kamara 55′, A.Kamara 90′)
Ivory Coast: B.Sangare, Aurier, Bailly (Kossounou 90′), Deli, Konan, I.Sangare (Traore 73′), Seri, Kessie (Die 82′), Zaha (Kouassi 82′), Pepe, Haller (Kouame 72′).
Sierra Leone: Mohamed Nbalie Kamara, Kakay, Bangura, Caulker, Wright, Quee, J.Kamara, Bundu (A.Kamara 75′), K.Kamara (Kaikai 83′), Turay (Kallon 73′), Musa Noah Kamara.