Holders Ivory Coast ousted from Cup of Nations

Morocco's players celebrate after scoring a goal against Ivory Coast during the Africa Cup of Nations match in Oyem on Tuesday night. (AFP)
Updated 25 January 2017

Holders Ivory Coast ousted from Cup of Nations

OYEM, Gabon: Defending champions the Ivory Coast were sent packing from the Africa Cup of Nations on Tuesday after losing 1-0 to a Morocco side coached by their old boss Herve Renard.
A brilliant Rachid Alioui goal gave Morocco the victory in Oyem in northern Gabon as the Atlas Lions marched on to the quarterfinals alongside DR Congo.
An impressive Congolese side eased to a 3-1 win against Togo in the night’s other game in Port-Gentil as they sealed top spot in Group C.
But it is the elimination of the Elephants, winners in 2015 after a penalty shoot-out against Ghana, that overshadows all else.
Their departure is the latest blow to the tournament following premature exits for hosts Gabon and much-fancied Algeria in the last few days.
And for the fourth consecutive Cup of Nations, the reigning champions will be absent from the quarterfinals, but the winning coach from two years ago will be in the last eight.
The blond, bronzed 48-year-old, wearing his lucky white shirt, hopes to become the first coach to win three Cup of Nations titles with three different countries having also won it with Zambia in 2012.
“Today we beat the Ivory Coast on a bad pitch that proved to be a leveller. Now a new competition begins with the knockout matches, which will be much like this one, and we will need a winning mentality,” Renard said.
Alioui, of French second-tier side Nimes, curled in a sublime long-range effort at the end of a counterattack just past the hour mark to break the deadlock and leave the Ivorians needing to score twice to stay alive. They could not.
“It is an immense disappointment. My thoughts go out to all Ivorians who are going through a difficult time,” said their French coach Michel Dussuyer.
“I take responsibility. We did not fulfil our objectives. Our ambition was to get past the first round and retain our title. It is going to be a difficult night,” he added as he refused to be drawn on his future in the job.
As the Ivorians prepare to go home, Morocco will now head to Port-Gentil for a quarterfinal while DR Congo make their way back to Oyem.
Florent Ibenge’s side needed just a draw to qualify but a 3-1 win over Togo secured top spot and the manner of their performance on a shocking pitch suggests the 2015 semifinalists must be seen as genuine contenders to win the trophy now.
Junior Kabananga fired past Togo’s substitute goalkeeper Cedric Mensah for the opener just before the half-hour mark and he also headed against the post prior to the interval.
Neeskens Kebano of Fulham lobbed in the second goal nine minutes into the second period after latching onto Marcel Tisserand’s punt downfield.
Kodjo Fo-Doh Laba pulled one back for Togo but a Paul-Jose Mpoku free kick with 10 minutes left that struck the underside of the bar and came down just over the line secured the win.
“Having gone top of the group after two rounds of games we needed to remain vigilant and we did that,” said Ibenge.
“They gave us a fright after we had gone 2-0 up and had we not matured as a team thanks to the two years we have spent together we might have panicked.”
Togo and their captain Emmanuel Adebayor were given a guard of honor at the end by the Congolese players but they go home having failed to register a win.
The group stage concludes on Wednesday when Ghana and Egypt clash in Port-Gentil and Mali meet already-eliminated Uganda in Oyem in Group D.
Egypt needs a draw to secure progress to the last eight along with Ghana, but if they slip up Mali could take advantage by beating the Ugandans.

Today’s matches

Egypt vs. Ghana (10:00 p.m. KSA time)

Uganda vs. Mali (10: 00 p.m. KSA time)

Free-scoring Salzburg pose serious threat to leaky Liverpool

Updated 10 December 2019

Free-scoring Salzburg pose serious threat to leaky Liverpool

  • Injury-hit Reds have consistently leaked goals despite streaking clear at the top of Premier League

LONDON: Liverpool travel to Salzburg on Tuesday needing to avoid defeat to the confident Austrian champions to guard against an embarrassing Champions League group stage exit for the holders.

Jurgen Klopp's men are used to getting through to the knockout stages the hard way. In each of the past two seasons they have needed home wins to secure a place in the last 16 before going on to make the final.

However, the specter of a free-scoring Salzburg, led by the Champions League's top scorer in Erlin Braut Haaland spells trouble for an injury-hit Liverpool backline that has consistently leaked goals this season despite streaking clear at the top of the Premier League.

The Reds' recorded a first clean sheet in 14 games in Saturday's 3-0 win at Bournemouth, but lost another center back as Dejan Lovren limped off in the first half.

Should the Croatian miss the trip to Austria, Joe Gomez will be Klopp's only fit partner for Virgil van Dijk in central defense.

Van Dijk narrowly missed out to Lionel Messi in the battle for the Ballon d'Or last week in recognition of the transformative effect he has had on Liverpool's fortunes over the past two years.

But even the towering Dutchman has been incapable of stopping the steady flow of goals against in recent months.

Injuries have meant there has been a constant rotation of Lovren, Gomez and Joel Matip alongside Van Dijk, while the attacking impetus offered by fullbacks Andy Robertson and Trent Alexander-Arnold leaves space in behind to be exploited.

Goalkeeper Alisson Becker also missed the first two months of the season due to a calf injury to further unsettle the backline.

The Brazilian is now back, but another injury to Fabinho has robbed the back four of the best player to protect them in the holding midfield role.

"I forgot how it feels, to be honest," said Klopp on finally ending the long wait for a clean sheet at the weekend.

"It's great, we should have them more often. It was the most-used word in the dressing room by the boys — "clean sheet, clean sheet, clean sheet."

"Obviously everybody was desperate for that, now we have it so let's have it more often.

"The next game where a clean sheet would be useful is already around the corner, against Salzburg on Tuesday."

That is easier said than done as Liverpool know from their first meeting with Jesse Marsch's men in October.

The hosts seemed to be cruising to another Anfield win in the Champions League as they raced into a 3-0 lead, but Salzburg hit back to level at 3-3 before Mohamed Salah's winner ensured Liverpool edged a seven-goal thriller.

Salzburg have scored 87 goals in 24 games in all competitions this season, 28 of which have come from Norwegian wonderkid Haaland in just 21 appearances.

The 19-year-old started on the bench when the sides met at Anfield due to injury, but came on to inspire the visitors' revival in the second half and scored one of his eight Champions League goals.

"He's not the only threat from Salzburg but he's a proper one," said Klopp of the danger posed by Haaland ahead of the sides' first clash.

Salzburg need to win to make the last 16 on their first appearance in the group stage in 25 years.

A point would be enough for Liverpool to progress, but they need to win to secure top spot in Group E ahead of Napoli.

Given Liverpool's paucity of clean sheets and Salzburg's thirst for goals, attack would appear to be the best form of defencse for the European champions.