Ivory Coast 1 South Africa 0: Kodjia secures precious opening win

Having failed to win a single match in a title defence two years ago, Ivory Coast began with three points against South Africa at the AFCON.

Ivory Coast forward Jonathan Kodjia   -  Getty Images

Jonathan Kodjia's second-half strike saw Ivory Coast edge to a 1-0 win over South Africa in its Africa Cup of Nations opener.

Les Elephants exited at the group stage two years ago having failed to win a match as defending champions, but they collected three points at the first attempt this time in Cairo on Monday.

Lille star Nicolas Pepe hit the bar with a first-half free-kick and Ivory Coast had to stay patient, finally getting its goal midway through the second period from Kodjia.

The goal clinched an ultimately deserved victory for Ibrahima Kamara's men, who play Morocco next as South Africa faces Namibia.

South Africa had the first chance of note shortly before the half-hour mark as Thulani Hlatshwayo headed just wide of the top-left corner, but Ivory Coast built momentum heading into half-time.

Pepe saw a superb 20-yard free-kick crash away off the crossbar, before Ronwen Williams superbly saved from Kodjia at close range as the striker bore down on goal.

But Kodjia capitalised on his second big opportunity after 64 minutes, with the Aston Villa striker left completely unmarked to control and send a scruffy finish under Williams, Max Gradel with the assist.

Ivory Coast brought Wilfried Zaha off the bench in a bid to extend its lead but instead had to see out a nervy finish, although only Williams' stunning diving stop denied Pepe from making it two with another fizzing free-kick.

Key Opta Facts: 

- Ivory Coast has only lost one of its last 18 opening games at the AFCON (W11, D6), it was in 1996 against Ghana (0-2).
- South Africa has lost three of its last four group-stage games at the AFCON (D1). 
- After this defeat, its has won only one of its last 15 games in the competition (D7 L8), it was against Angola on home soil in January 2013 (2-0).
- Gradel has delivered the assist for two of Ivory Coast's last three goals at the AFCON.
- South Africa has conceded its last nine AFCON goals in the second half.

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