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Nigeria upset hosts at Cup of Nations

NIGERIA handed Africa Cup of Nations hosts Ivory Coast a 1-0 defeat in their Group A clash at the Alassane Ouattara Stadium on Thursday with a second-half penalty settling the encounter.

Captain William Troost-Ekong struck home the 55th-minute spot kick after a VAR review showed that young Ivorian defender Ousmane Diomande had impeded Victor Osimhen.

The result means Nigeria moved above the Ivorians in the standings by four points along with Equatorial Guinea, who beat Guinea Bissau 4-2 earlier. The hosts have three.

The clash of the West African heavyweights was a largely languid affair, dominated by physical battles and with few clear-cut chances created.

But Diomande, 20, was found to have caught Osimhen on the knee as the two tussled for the ball in the penalty area and Troost-Ekong blasted the ball straight down the middle to settle the clash.

Nigeria offered their hosts few chances in a strong defensive performance, playing five across the back and keeping the tricky home attack at bay. They also looked more dangerous up front with Osimhen squandering a good opportunity for an early lead.

“We put together a good strategy and my team did it well. I think we deserved the win,” Nigeria coach Jose Peseiro said.

Christian Kouame came closest for the hosts in the first half but had his effort blocked by Nigeria goalkeeper Stanley Nwabali.

The Ivorians ran out of energy early and despite nine minutes of stoppage time, never looked likely to break down the Super Eagles, who won in the Ivory Coast for the first time in 10 attempts.

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“We could not impose ourselves physically but it was the small details that favoured Nigeria,” said Ivorian coach Jean Louis Gasset.

Ivory Coast are still well placed to advance as they already have three points from a 2-0 win in their opener last Saturday against Guinea Bissau.

They meet Equatorial Guinea in their final group game on Monday while Nigeria will play Guinea Bissau at the same time.

Both matches are in Abidjan although at stadiums at the opposite ends of the city.

Later on Thursday, Egypt and Ghana played the last of three matches in one day at the tournament in a Group B clash.

By MARK GLEESON

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