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Sangaré blunder gifts Sierra Leone the leveler in dramatic draw with Ivory Coast

Ivory Coast appeared to have a win secured in Friday’s 2021 AFCON Group E matchup against Sierra Leone, but a dramatic goalkeeping error handed the Leone Stars a crucial point and momentum boost in a 2-2 draw. Alhaji Kamara was there to capitalize on Badra Ali Sangaré’s mistake and now a win for Sierra Leone in their next match against Equatorial Guinea will seal their passage to a shock knockout stage appearance. Ivory Coast remain at the top of Group E on four points with a showdown against Algeria approaching.

The performance for the Ivorians encapsulated the current status of the national side: incredibly talented but prone to mistakes and lapses of intensity at the worst times. In the first half Ivory Coast mostly dominated and had the majority of the chances, but missed opportunities prevented the Elephants from being up multiple goals. In the 10th minute, Ivorian winger Wilfried Zaha got behind full back Osman Kakay before drawing a clumsy challenge from Sierra Leone captain Umaru Bangura that resulted in a penalty kick. However, goalkeeping hero from the opening match Mohamed Kamara came up huge to deny the spot kick from Franck Kessié.

Sierra Leone could not hold out the Ivorian assault forever, and the Elephants’ goal in the 25th minute was straightforward. Zaha collected a pass on the left wing and faced no pressure as he dribbled and picked out Sebastien Haller making a run down the middle. The in-form Ajax Amsterdam striker made it look easy on his touch and poacher’s finish past Kamara for the opener.

The Leone Stars rarely got forward but were dangerous whenever they did get out on the break. Mohamed Buya Turay got behind the Ivorian defense in the 38th minute but his shot was brilliantly saved by Sangaré. On the other side of the halftime break, Sierra Leone were rewarded for their resilience with a 54th minute equalizer. Musa Noah Kamara received a ball from Buya Turay at the edge of the penalty area and had room to launch a left footed blast that was too much for Sangaré to handle.

Ivory Coast continued to dominate and took the lead back in the 65th minute. Haller was able to receive and run at the Sierra Leonean defense and laid off for Ibrahim Sangaré at the edge of the penalty area. Sangaré rolled a pass out to an open Nicolas Pépé and the Arsenal forward was able to run around the ball and curl his low shot beyond Kamara and into the goal.

The Elephants had two excellent chances to extend their lead, but Kessié chipped wide after Haller sent the AC Milan player in on goal. Ivorian substitute Hamidou Traoré was set up with the goal at his mercy in the 78th minute but got under his shot to send the ball high and wide. In the end, Ivory Coast paid dearly in the fourth minute of stoppage time. A hopeful ball forward saw defender Odilon Kossounou attempt to flick back to his keeper. Sangaré had to scramble to keep the ball from going over the end line and while diving to collect he inexplicably spilled the ball behind him, allowing Steven Caulker to collect and cross for Alhaji Kamara to apply a composed finish.

The celebrations were ecstatic from the Leone Stars as their dream of advancing to the knockout round continues to gain steam. Highlights are below.

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