Ivory Coast’s African Cup honeymoon was cut short on Sunday as it had to fight for a 1-1 draw at home to Equatorial Guinea in a friendly.
Iban Edu broke away for Equatorial Guinea’s goal in the 13th minute, forcing the new African champion to scramble for an equalizer, which eventually came in the 72nd from substitute Max Gradel.
The African Cup of Nations winner was headed for defeat, angering coach Herve Renard, who cut a sorely frustrated figure on the sideline and marched over to argue furiously with the referee at halftime.
Before the game at Abidjan’s Felix Houphouet-Boigny Stadium, the Ivorians paraded the Cup of Nations trophy they won last month in Equatorial Guinea and honored retiring players Boubacar Barry and Kolo Toure. But Edu outpaced his marker early and fired a shot into the roof of the net to abruptly end those celebrations.
Ivory Coast created plenty of chances in response. Yaya Toure and Gervinho started, but Gervinho left before halftime with what appeared to be a right hamstring injury and was replaced by Wilfried Bony.
Toure sent two curling free kicks close in the first half and Bony pulled a shot wide with a clear sight of goal. Equatorial Guinea goalkeeper Felipe Ovono made a number of top saves in the second half before Gradel finally eased Renard’s tensions when he scored after another Toure free kick was only parried by Ovono.
Gervinho emerged to sit on the bench for the second half, also easing worries over his injury. Ivory Coast comfortably beat Angola 2-0 on Thursday in the first of its two friendlies in the international window.
In other friendlies on Sunday, South Africa equalized deep in injury time for a 1-1 draw with Nigeria. Zambia beat Rwanda 2-0 to give Rwanda’s new 29-year-old Northern Irish coach Johnny McKinstry a losing start. Tanzania and Malawi drew 1-1 and Mozambique also scored late to win 2-1 in Botswana.
On Saturday, Uruguay beat Morocco 1-0 with Edinson Cavani’s 51st-minute penalty and Togo — under interim coach Tom Saintfiet but without striker Emmanuel Adebayor — struggled in a lackluster 1-1 draw away to minnow Mauritius.
Gambia returned from its ban to beat Mauritania 1-0 on Friday night, the tiny West African country’s first international since 2013. Gambia was banned for two years last April for falsifying documents and fielding overage players in a youth tournament. The Confederation of African Football eased that suspension and Gambia can now play again and will be able to enter 2017 African Cup qualifying, which starts in June.
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