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Gervinho gives Ivory Coast win over Togo at African Cup

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Associated Press
1/22/2013 1:53:23 PM
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RUSTENBURG, South Africa -- The toughest group at the African Cup of Nations delivered two thrilling finishes on Tuesday, adding some excitement to a tournament which had produced five draws in the first six matches.

Ivory Coast needed a late goal to beat scrappy Togo 2-1 to open Group D, while Tunisia produced a remarkable injury-time winner to edge North African rival Algeria 1-0 in the later match in Rustenburg.

The day marking the end of the first round of games also saw the African confederation fine Ethiopia's federation $10,000 after fans threw vuvuzelas onto the pitch during the team's 1-1 draw against defending champion Zambia on Monday.

There was also disappointing news for the home fans as South Africa lost two midfielders because of injury ahead of the crucial Group A match against Angola on Wednesday.

Ivory Coast struggled against Togo but scraped a victory thanks to Gervinho's 88th-minute goal following a long cross by Yaya Toure, who had opened the scoring less than 10 minutes into the match at the Royal Bafokeng Stadium. Jonathan Ayite equalized just before halftime.

Togo nearly equalized again in the fourth and final minute of added time, but Floyd Ayite's diving header from close range drew a great save from Ivory Coast goalkeeper Boubacar Barry.

After the match, Togo coach Didier Six walked out of the post-match news conference after saying just a few words, apparently upset because of a 60th-minute Togo goal disallowed because the referee had yet to authorize the corner kick that led to a well-placed header by defender Dare Nibombe. Six was visibly distraught at the time the goal was disallowed, gesturing at the officials.

Ivory Coast, trying to rebound from a loss to Zambia in last year's final, is favourite to win its first title in more than 20 years thanks to a star-filled team led by Didier Drogba, who was largely ineffective before being substituted in the 74th minute on Tuesday.

The second match of the day in Rustenburg looked set to become the sixth draw in the first eight matches of the tournament, only for Youssef Msakni to score a spectacular goal in the first minute of stoppage time to give Tunisia a dramatic win over Algeria.

Only Mali had managed a victory after the first three days, a 1-0 triumph against Nigeria in Group B.

Algeria had most of the chances throughout the match and striker Islam Slimani struck the crossbar with a header in the 29th, but Msakni cleared a defender outside the area to set up a perfectly-struck, curling shot that hit the upper right corner of the net.

Tunisia's bench players sprinted onto the field to celebrate as Msakni stripped his shirt and ran euphorically after scoring. Algeria coach Vahid Halilhodzic stared in disbelief from the bench after the final whistle.

The result left Tunisia level on points with leader Ivory Coast at the top of what's considered the toughest group.

A fan wearing an Algeria jersey invaded the field before the match without being challenged by authorities, who later just escorted him back to the stands.

The punishment was harsher for the Ethiopian federation after fans hurled vuvuzelas and other objects onto the pitch during Monday's match against Zambia.

CAF announced the fine late Tuesday, adding that half of the $10,000 penalty would be suspended on condition that Ethiopia's fans are not found guilty of a similar offence during the rest of the tournament.

Group A will begin its second round of matches on Wednesday, but South Africa's already unraveling campaign unraveled a little more when Bafana Bafana lost midfielders Kagisho Dikgacoi and Lerato Chabangu because of injuries ahead of the encounter against Angola. The host nation only drew with Cape Verde in its opener.

Striker Katlego Mphela and Ajax midfielder Thulani Serero -- neither of whom are fully fit -- may be called up to try to appease the team's disgruntled fans.

"I'm prepared to step up to the plate and try to obviously get what we need, which is goals," Mphela said.

Cape Verde will play Morocco in the doubleheader in Durban.

Gervinho (Photo: The Canadian Press)

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(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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