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Max Gradel sends Ivory Coast through top of Group D

CameroonCameroon
Ivory CoastIvory Coast
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Max Gradel's stunning first-half strike saw Ivory Coast beat Cameroon 1-0 and finish top of a tightly-contested African Nations Cup Group D to qualify for the quarterfinals.

The former Leeds midfielder, who is now at St Etienne, launched a spectacular strike from outside of the area to beat Cameroon goalkeeper Fabrice Ondoa and put Ivory Coast ahead in the 35th minute.

Knowing they needed a goal to keep their hopes of progression alive, Cameroon were unable to find the target and instead exited the tournament.

Ahead of the match, all four teams in Group D had exactly the same head-to-head, goal difference and goal scored records - a situation which meant the two victorious sides in Wednesday's final two games would qualify, or lots would need to be drawn if either of the games finished in a draw

Mali faced Guinea in the other match and finished level at 1-1, meaning the group runner-up will be decided between the two sides by drawing lots on Thursday.

The first half was a frustrating and cagey affair in Malabo with both sides concious of the importance of the result.

Ivory Coast went close to scoring early on but Wilfried Bony saw his shot from Serge Aurier's cross saved by Ondoa from close range in the fifth minute.

Shortly after, Cameroon's Franck Etoundi headed over the bar from inside the six yard box as both sides searched for the breakthrough.

The game seemed to be heading to a 0-0 deadlock at half-time but Gradel unleashed a 25-yard strike out of nowhere which flew into the top left corner to give Ivory Coast the advantage.

Stephane Mbia almost levelled three minutes later at the other end but Ivory Coast keeper Sylvain Gbohouo closed him down and thwarted the attack.

Cameroon midfielder Edgar Salli sent the ball over the crossbar in the last action of the first half as The Indomitable Lions went into the break trailing by the single Gradel goal.

Bony went close to claiming Ivory Coast's second in the 64th minute when he fired towards goal and forced a good save from the Cameroon goalkeeper.

Cameroon came close to finding the equaliser in the 81st minute when Serge Aurier had to throw himself at the ball to made a block to deny a 20-yard strike by Vincent Aboubakar.

The clock ticked down and Cameroon were unable to find the equaliser that would have meant the qualification would have been decided by drawing lots.

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