Ivory Coast edge Toga as Gervinho strikes late

Ivory Coast edge Toga as Gervinho strikes late

Late goals from Ivory Coast forward Gervinho and Tunisia winger Youssef Msakni earned wins over Togo and Algeria respectively as Group D got underway at the African Nations Cup on Tuesday.

Gervinho sealed victory for the tournament favourites with an 88th minute strike from a tight angle to give Ivory Coast a 2-1 win over a stubborn Togo side.

Msakni left it even later by netting in stoppage time to give Tunisia a 1-0 win over north African rivals Algeria.  Five of the eight games so far have ended in draws and the other three have all had late winners - Seidou Keita scoring for Mali in the 84th for a 1-0 victory over Niger on Sunday.

While the results of Tuesday's games at the Royal Bafokeng Sports Palace mean Ivory Coast and Tunisia are level on points at the top of Group D, they won in contrasting ways.

Ivory Coast won an entertaining game with Togo while Tunisia and Algeria never looked like scoring until Msakni produced a touch of class with a superb curling shot from 20 metres.  The one thing both winning teams had in common was that they did not play particularly well.

Ivory Coast, whose exalted generation of players like Didier Drogba, Kolo Toure, Didier Zokora and Emmanuel Eboue are making one last realistic attempt to win the trophy that has eluded their country since 1992, made errors and looked out of sorts.

Skipper Drogba, 34, desperate to add the African title to the Champions League and Premier League crowns he won during his eight-year spell at Chelsea, gave a less than commanding performance up front and was substituted 16 minutes from time.

Ivory Coast have been favourites at the last four editions and have failed to live up to expectations every time, losing on penalty shootouts in the 2006 and 2012 finals.  However, they did show one steely quality needed by all potential champions on Tuesday - the ability to win when they have not played at their best.