Ivory Coast crowned African champions after dramatic final

Ivory Coast players celebratingIvory Coast emerged the new African champions on Sunday night after they defeated the Black Stars of Ghana in the final match of the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations. They won the match played in Bata, Equatorial Guinea 9-8 on penalties in a repeat of the 1992 AFCON final as the game remained goalless after the extra time.

Goalkeeper Boubacar Barry scored the last of the penalties to give the Elephants their second title as they replaced Nigeria as African champions at the Estadio de Bata after two previous attempts in the finals. The Elephants lost to Egypt 4-2 on penalties in Egypt 2006 and also lost 8-7 to Zambia in the 2012 edition co-hosted by Equatorial Guinea and Gabon.

Ghana were seeking their fifth title while the Ivorians were seeking their second. The Elephants had defeated the Black Stars 11-10 in penalties to win their first title in 1992 with African legend Abedi Pele Ayew as the Ghanaian captain. On Sunday he had two of his children losing again to the Ivorians. Abedi though missed that final clash after he got a second yellow card in the semi final.

Elephants’ coach, Herve Renard, also on Sunday became the first coach to win the trophy with two different countries having done same with Zambia in 2012.Sunday night was the 10th time the AFCON would be decided through penalty shoot outs.

The finale was also the first time in the history of the tournament, two families played in the AFCON final as the Toure brothers — Kolo and Yaya — played against the Ayew brothers of Andre and Jordan.

Ghana captain Asamoah Gyan returned to the starting line-up in place of Jordan Ayew after responding quickly to medical treatment to a hip injury. He was hurt in a collision with Guinea goalkeeper Naby Yattara in the quarterfinals and was only on the bench for his side’s semi-final. Ivory Coast were without midfielder Cheick Tiote, who has yet to recover from an ankle injury and veteran Barry replaced injured Sylvain Gbohouo in goal.

The match between the two West African giants initially didn’t measure up to the expected explosive encounter but improved towards the latter part of the match.

The Ghanaians neutralised the efforts of the current African Footballer of the Year, Yaya Toure, Wilfred Bony and Gervinho in the Ivorian attack while the attacking duo of Gyan and Andre Ayew were also nullified by the Black Stars’ defence.

It grew into an end to end affair but a moment of brilliance came from Everton midfielder, Christian Atsu, in the 25th minute when he saw his shot from 25 yards hit the upright.

In the extra time, both sides wasted chances after chances as the Ghanaians brought in Jordan Ayew and this yielded more attack on the Ivorian defence while Renard brought in Salomon Kalou as the game headed to for the dreaded penalty shootouts.

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