The Elephants failed to gratify their home fans as a promised on Saturday in Abidjan after they were held to a 1-1 draw by visiting Morocco
Although the Elephants had already clinched their ticket to the third round before this encounter, coach Sabri Lamouchi wanted to atone for his side’s 4-1 debacle at the hands of Mexico last month in New Jersey, which renewed widespread criticisms of the Frenchman’s ability to lead the star-studded outfit.
With nothing at stake, Morocco, third placed in Group C, wanted to bow out with honours especially after holding the Ivorians to a 2-2 draw in the reverse fixture played last year’s June in Marrakech.
With Bergdich, El Adoua and Feddal manning the Atlas Lions’ back half and keeping at bay the likes of Salomon Kalou, Gervinho and Didier Drogba, who was returning to the team since February, the session remained balanced for a better part of the first half, with the visitors winning most of the goal chances.
Younes Belhanda drifted deep through the right flank beating Arthur Boka and laying for Abdelaziz Barrada, who had enough space around him in the Ivorian box, but wasted too much a time to chip in his effort before goalkeeper Copa Barry could snatch the ball.
Minutes later, Salomon Kalou grabbed his side’s chance to open the scoring but after outrunning Feddal and Noussair to the edge of Morocco box, he made a wrong choice of hitting in his effort which crashed against the far post instead of laying for onrushing Yaya Toure.
The Atlas Lions dominated the midfield for the rest of the first half as the Elephants struggled to impose play before a demanding crowd.
The second half began with the visitors still on top of proceedings even as the home side poured forth to win and keep balls. Each Ivorian player was always policed by two or three Moroccans, much as if the match was playing in Marrakesh or Rabat.
Torino midfielder Omar El Kaddouri set up Belhanda in the 50th minute near the Ivorian box but the fine effort was thwarted by Siaka Tiene. Three minutes later, the Lions’ pressure paid off when Youssef El Arabi lunged into the Elephants’ box and quickly delivered his effort before his any challenges, to put his side ahead.
Cote D’Ivoire toiled for an equaliser until the 85th minute, failing to find a breach in the Moroccan defence, before Drogba could win a penalty after forcing El Adoua to deflect a ball with his hand in the box.
With five minutes to fulltime, the Atlas Lions sought strongly for a winner but failed to pull through, ending the match at 1-1.