Algeria put up a good fight against Cote d’Ivoire at the Royal Bafokeng Stadium in Rustenburg on Wednesday in Africa Cup of Nations Group D match, as the two best teams on the continent according to the rankings ended the clash in a 2-2 draw, with the north Africans leaving the competition.
The Elephants rested most of their veteran players but captain Didier Drogba was on duty to shape up his unconvincing form ahead of their clash against the Super Eagles of Nigeria in the quarter-finals on Sunday.
The Fennec Forces began with high determination as if much was at stake despite their elimination from the competition last Sunday after losing their second match to Togo. El Arbi Soudani made a connection to a long cross to the left edge of the Ivorian box, but he was harshly blocked inside by Ismael Traore of French club Brest.
The ensuing penalty was bungled by Ryad Boudebouz, who crashed his kick against the right post to deny his side from taking the lead early in the sixth minute.
The north Africans maintained domination through the first quarter, with Salomon Kalou and Boka Arthur helping their back half to fend off assaults and committing nasty fouls in the process, but the Algerians failed each time to bend any fruitful efforts from the awarded free kicks.
Drogba was set up by N’dri Romaric to the right of Algeria area, but after charging into the box, the former Chelsea talisman’s effort was thwarted by Parma’s defender Djamel Mesbah, as the Fennecs would continue on the defensive for another quarter before getting a foothold on the game once more.
A throw in from Mehdi Mostefa fell to Soudani in the left flank of the Ivorian area, but his long-range strike was perfectly gathered by goalkeeper Daniel Yeboah, who was standing in the absence of first choice Copa Barry.
Another Algerian attempt at goal from Boudebouz went over the bar by the half hour mark as the Fennecs coach Vahid Halilhodzic, who formerly managed the Elephants, rued his side’s continuous lack of success in front of goal.
Drogba drilled a left-footed effort from the penalty area but it went over the bar, as Boka’s free kick minutes later was deflected into a corner. Both sides could not break the stalemate by the end of the first half, but Algeria had a slightly superior domination.
Algeria were still in the ascendancy by the start of second half, with Drogba in the rearguard helping out and tripping Essaid Belkalem in their area as Kalou barged Boudebouz, but the free kicks from both fouls went futile.
The many free kicks in the game indicated how physical the cracker was between the first and second-rated teams on the continent. A handball by Boka gifted Algeria a penalty by the hour mark, which Sofiane Feghouli converted to break the deadlock, as his side continued to force the Ivorians on the retreat.
Algeria doubled their lead 10 minutes later when Soudani’s long-range header off a right flank cross from Feghouli settled behind Yeboah in the net.
The Ivorians survived some minutes of onslaughts from the Fennec Foxes before Drogba headed home from 12 yards after linking an aerial ball from Boka to pull one back for his side.
The Elephants drew level on 2-2 four minutes later through Wilfried Bony, who raced down into the Algeria area unmarked, unleashed as right-footed effort which was deflected by a defender into the top right side of the goal as M’Bolhi sprawled in vain to save his side.
Foued Kadir replaced Soudani with five minutes remaining but the session would play out without more goals as Algeria bowed out of the competition with a strong showing, and the Ivorians move on to the quarter-finals to face Nigeria.