Ivory Coast joined tournament hosts Rwanda in advancing from Group A into the quarterfinals of the 2016 African Nations Championship after they defeated Gabon 4-1 in Butare on Sunday afternoon.
The Elephants finish the group stage on six points, level with Rwanda (who were beaten by Morocco in the other Group A match) but Amavubi claim top spot thanks to a superior head-to-head record after they beat the West Africans 1-0 in the tournament’s opening game.
Ivory Coast settled the quicker of the two teams and it was no surprise to see them take the lead in the 19th minute, with Essis Aka firing home a low shot from outside the penalty area to make it 1-0.
Gabon responded by withdrawing youngster Mario Mandrault, who struggled to get the better of the Elephants’ defenders, and replacing him with Allen Nono.
The Panthers made a second tactical change at the start of the second half, sending on Lionel Yackouya to replace Aaron Boupendza, and they soon looked a much more dangerous prospect.
In the 51st minute Gabon equalised through Franck Obambou, who got on the end of a corner kick from Knox Younga and found the back of the net with a powerful downward header.
Yet parity lasted less than a quarter hour, with Ivory Coast reclaiming the lead on 65 minutes. Djedje Guiza picked up a loose ball in the penalty area and beat Yves Moto with a powerful shot which burst through the goalkeeper’s hands.
The Elephants added to their advantage in the 77th and 84th minutes as Gabon’s spirits dropped, with substitutes Koffi Boua and Ble Treika both scoring well-executed goals to add some gloss to the score line.