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Congo DR vs. Ivory Coast: Score, Grades and Reaction from AFCON 2015 Semifinal

Gianni Verschueren@ReverschPassFeatured ColumnistFebruary 4, 2015

Congo's Diedonnei Mbokani, right, is challenged by Ivory Coast's captain Yaya Toure, right, during their African Cup of Nations semifinal soccer match in Bata, Equatorial Guinea, Wednesday, Feb. 4, 2015. (AP Photo/Themba Hadebe)
Themba Hadebe/Associated Press

Ivory Coast put on an excellent performance to beat Congo DR 3-1 on Wednesday in the semi-final of AFCON 2015, a wide-open, attacking affair that had fans on the edge of their seats.Β 

Both teams started the match with plenty of attacking intentions, working the ball wide and having their full-backs high up on the pitch. A number of half-chances had the crowd buzzing with excitement, as this semi-final clash promised plenty of action.

Themba Hadebe/Associated Press

Ivory Coast were the better of the two sides, however, and the Elephants took the lead through Manchester City star Yaya Toure after 20 minutes.

The powerful midfielder unleashed one of his patented shots from distance after a stray ball fell to him just outside the box, scoring an absolute stunner. KingFut.com had the Vine:

KingFut.com @King_Fut

DR Congo 1-1 Ivory Coast. Mbokani equalizes from the penaly spot after this strike from Yaya Toure https://t.co/YTm70bMhGw

According to WhoScored.com, the goal put Ivory Coast in the lead for most goals scored in the tournament:

WhoScored.com @WhoScored

Ivory Coast: No team has scored more goals at Africa Cup of Nations 2015 than Ivory Coast (7) #AFCON2015

Their lead was short-lived, however. Within minutes of the opener, Congo DR were given a penalty after the ball struck Eric Bailly's hand. Replays confirmed the ball hit the defender in the wrist, but the contact seemed unintentional, and the decision was a harsh one.

The Guardian's Nick Ames thought it was soft:

Nick Ames @NickAmes82

Well, two goals here. Yaya Toure thunderbolt from the edge of the box and what seemed a slightly soft DRC pen, superbly converted by Mbokani

Dieumerci Mbokani couldn't care less whether the spot-kick was justified or not, smashing a low hit beyond the grasp of Muteba Kidiaba:

Tempers started to flare a bit after the two quick goals, with a series of harsh fouls resulting in several yellow cards. None of the tackles were particularly malicious, but the high intensity of the match clearly shone in the battle on the pitch.

Mbokani could have given his team the lead five minutes before half-time, finding himself on the end of an inviting ball from Yannick Bolasie. The striker couldn't put enough power on his header, and goalkeeper Sylvain Gbohouo was hardly troubled by the effort.

Gervinho nearly found the back of the net after a stray cross clipped the underside of the bar, but his effort bounced just wide of the goal. The AS Roma man redeemed himself just minutes later, however, taking advantage of horrid defending to find space on the edge of a great pass from Wilfried Bony, via 101 Great Goals:

101 Great Goals @102greatgoals

Gervinho!!! 2-1 Ivory Coast. Bony with his 2nd assist of the game https://t.co/PdMxNBPEjq

Ivory Coast went into half-time leading 2-1 after an entertaining first half, and while Congo DR put in a solid effort, the lead was thoroughly deserved.

Full-back Serge Aurier stole the show at the start of the second half, casually walking onto the field a full two minutes after the match had already restarted. BBC's Gary Rose couldn't believe it:

Gary Rose @Gary_Rose83

Serge Aurier strolling onto the pitch for Ivory Coast, almost two mins after second half kicked off. Casual. #bbcafcon2015

Bony wanted a penalty for a slight tug on his shirt five minutes into the econd half, but the official refused to oblige. Bolasie then nearly equalised after some fine work, cutting inside and unleashing a powerful shot that was saved by Gbohouo.

Toure nearly doubled his tally when he lashed on to a loose ball in similar position to his opening goal, but this time, his low drive just missed the mark. The BBC's John Bennett thought Congo DR were in real trouble at this point:

John Bennett @JohnBennettBBC

Going to take something special for #DRCongo to get back into this. #IvoryCoast's big 3 of Yaya, Gervinho & Bony looking extremely dangerous

Wilfied Kanon doubled the Elephant's lead after 68 minutes, as the rebound off a corner fell to the full-back, who bundled the ball into the net with his knee. The goal, via OptimaLive's Deji Faremi:

Deji Faremi @deejayfaremi

Billy Kanon's goal to put Cote d'Ivoire 3-1 up https://t.co/MgT8JSlvsy

Congo DR responded by introducing a host of new players, but Ivory Coast easily took control of the ball, in anticipation of the final whistle and a meeting of the winner of the match between Ghana and Equatorial Guinea on Thursday.

Relevant Player Grades

Sunday Alamba/Associated Press

Wilfried Bony: B+

Ivory Coast's midfielders weren't consistently successful in feeding the Manchester City star the ball, but when in possession, Bony was always lively and a handful for the Congo DR defenders. His two assists were nothing to scoff at, either.

Yaya Toure: B

When Toure decides to hang up his boots, he'll undoubtedly be a strong candidate to rival Samuel Eto'o and Didier Drogba as the greatest African footballer of all timer. The midfielder has few weaknesses, and his scorching strike to open the score was a thing of beauty.

Yannick Bolasie: B

The Crystal Palace man was the most dangerous player on the pitch for Congo DR, who didn't receive enough from star striker Mbokani. His mobility and proficiency at cutting inside remains a huge weapon, and Bolasie is only scratching the surface of his potential.

Post-Match Reaction

BBC's John Bennett wonders if Ivory Coast will be able to finish the job, looking at their track record in the past several years:

John Bennett @JohnBennettBBC

Ivory Coast into their third AFCON final in 9 years & they're now 90 minutes away from their 1st title since 1992. Will they finally do it?

bet365 asked the same question:

bet365 @bet365

Are Ivory Coast's golden generation on their way to finally lifting the African Cup of Nations? #AFCON2015 http://t.co/maCZBdhFE4

Florent Ibenge became one of the big stars of this year's tournament for his fantastic work with DR Congo, and while his team couldn't win on Wednesday, the manager will still return home a national hero. Here's what he had to say on the plight of the African coach, per Goal's Brian Oliver:

We are not confident of our own and so they [national federations] prefer to give that confidence to the foreign coaches, even when some of us have the same qualifications and qualities as these other coaches.

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