Cote d'Ivoire winger Max Gradel
Saturday Sep 02, 2017. 20:19
Gabon lost their third Group C match of the 2018 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers 3-0 to Cote d'Ivoire on Saturday at Stade d'Angondjé in Libreville.
In the wake of the loss, the 2017 CAF African Cup of Nations hosts are now sitting at number three with two points from two draws in their campaign thus far.
For the visitors, two goals from Seydou Doumbia and one courtesy of Max Gradel allowed them to walk away with the full three points.
Both sides started on a low note, but it was the visitors who had a great opportunity through Salomon Kalou, though his effort went inches past the post when he struck from a good position in the 15th minute.
The Elephants pushed to find an early goal, but defender Eric Bailly fired his shot over the crossbar as they had a better chance to grab the lead.
The hosts responded through Denis Bouanga in the 30th minute as he unleashed a shot from an acute angle, but his effort went wide on the right and goalkeeper Sylvain Gbohouo parried narrowly wide.
With 10 minutes towards the end of the first half, Gabonnese shot stopper Yves Bitseki was forced to produce a fine save as he denied Kalou's header.
It was 0-0 at half time.
Just after their return from the interval, Gradel found the back of the net after turning his marker inside out in the box before firing the ball into the bottom corner with his left foot.
With less than 25 minutes to go, the Panthers nearly found an equaliser through substitute Malick Evouna as he rattled the crossbar, but the referee called for a foul after he pulled down Bailly.
In the 70th minute, the Ivorians kept pushing for the second goal, but it was Bitseki who kept the hosts in the game after denying a well struck shot by Gervinho before a rebound fell for Kalou and Seydou Doumbia.
Coach Jose Antonio Camacho's men did not give up when Denis Bouanga saw his shot going over the woodwork after a poorly cleared cross broke to him at the edge of the box, only to hammer it over in the 76th minute.
However, a minute later, Doumbia made it 2-0 for the 2015 CAF Africa Cup of Nations winners when he received a fine pass from Gervinho and the forward took a single touch before lifting the ball superbly over the advancing Bitseki.
Although the visitors were home and dry with a 2-0 lead, Doumbia completed his brace when he netted in the 83rd minute following a delivery by Gervinho.
In the end, the hard-fought win sees coach Marc Wilmots' troops remaining at number one with seven points from two wins and one draw so far.
However, the two continental giants are set to meet for the return leg in Bouake on Tuesday and the 2017 AFCON hosts will want to avenge this defeat.
Cote d'Ivoire (0) 3 (Gradel 53', Doumbia 77', 83')
Gabon: Bitseki, Manga, Palun, Obiang, Appindangoye, Tandjigora, Lemina, Kanga (Bingui 70'), Bouanga, Ameka (Evouna 59'), Boupendza (Assoumou 86')
Cote d'Ivoire: Gbohouo, Traoré, Aurier, Kanon, Bailly, Kalou (Assale 74'), Seri (Sanogo 79'), Kessié, Doumbia (Boli 89'), Gervinho, Gradel