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AFCON 2023: Troost-Ekong, Nigerian defense steal the show against stagnant Ivory Coast

The Stade Alassane Ouattara in Abidjan was silenced on Thursday by a determined performance from Nigeria who defeated hosts Ivory Coast by a 1-0 score in Group A action from the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations. Super Eagles captain and central defender William Troost-Ekong fired in a penalty kick for the only goal of the match and anchored a Nigerian defense that left the Ivorian attack befuddled. Now level with Equatorial Guinea at the top of Group A, Nigeria are strong candidates to win the group with a victory over Guinea-Bissau on Sunday while Ivory Coast will now prepare for Equatorial Guinea.

The Elephants of Ivory Coast were the favorites in front of a vocal home crowd but the pressure proved to be difficult to manage. With a talented and explosive attack, Nigeria relished their underdog status and were content to play a tactical match with counter attacks the focus. The teams largely cancelled each other out in the first half with Nigeria star striker Victor Osimhen’s off target effort in the 8th minute the best opportunity for either team.

Nigeria coach José Peseiro’s tactics continued to succeed after the break and just over five minutes into the second Osimhen’s explosiveness helped the Super Eagles achieve a surprise breakthrough. Kicked in the leg as he attempted to collect a bouncing ball in the Ivorian penalty area, VAR called referee Mustapha Ghorbal to the video screen and a penalty kick was awarded. Troost-Ekong left little doubt on his spot kick with a blast down the middle as Ivorian goalkeeper Yahia Fofana dove out of the way.

After struggling to reach full acceleration in their opening match against Guinea-Bissau, the theme continued for the hosts whose attack was stuck in the mud and out of ideas against a compact Nigerian bunker. The Elephants failed to register a shot on goal in the second half and Nigeria, under serious pressure from their supporters before the match, achieved a brilliant tactical victory with surprisingly little resistance from the Ivorian team.

Highlights from the match are below.

Match Highlights

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