Ivory Coast 1-0 DR Congo: Sébastien Haller’s second-half winner sees Ivory Coast progress to AFCON final

Another step closer to lifting their third Africa Cup of Nations trophy, and their first since 1974, the Democratic Republic of the Congo made only one change against the tournament hosts as Gaël Kakuta replaced Théo Bongonda.

Meanwhile, Ivory Coast’s whirlwind tournament continued in their extra-time quarter-final clash against Mali on Saturday. Oumar Diakité scored what turned out to be match-winner in the 122nd minute to secure their place in another AFCON semi-final, but ultimately would be missing tonight after extraordinarily getting himself sent off less than a minute later.

CIV: Fofana; Konan, Ndicka, Boly, Singo; Kessié, Seri; Adingra, Gradel, Fofana; Haller

DRC: Mpasi; Kalulu, Mbemba, Baka, Masuaku; Pickel, Moutoussamy; Elia, Kakuta, Wissa; Bakambu

Having emerged victorious in just one of their five matches – within 90 minutes – in this year’s tournament, it appeared the Democratic of the Congo opened the scoring with their first proper attack on goal.

However, controversy surrounded Mohammed Ibrahim after he deemed that Ivorian goalkeeper Yahia Fofana actually had full control of the ball before being fouled by Meschak Elia, in a move that allowed teammate Cédric Bakambu to fire home – but ultimately left his strike-partner disappointed with the referee’s decision.

At the other end of the pitch, Wilfried Singo sent a delicious delivery into that danger zone that Simon Adingra headed marginally wide of the mark. Nonetheless, it was back down the opposite end of the Olympic Stadium of Ebimpé where DR Congo should have been celebrating the game’s opening goal shortly preparatory to the half-hour mark, but Brentford striker Yoane Wissa could only fire straight at Fofana when it appeared an easier task to hit the back of the net.

Embed from Getty Images

Even so, two even more glorious opportunities to break the deadlock prior to half time would fall the way of the Ivory Coast in the closing stages of the opening 45 minutes. First, Sébastien Haller headed disappointingly wide from underneath the penalty spot – despite not having any defenders in his vicinity – ahead of Franck Kessié beating Lionel Mpasi, but not the paintwork of the left-hand post with an ambitious curling effort only a matter of minutes later.

Brought on during the interval for the ineffectual Gaël Kakuta, Théo Bongonda almost made an immediate impact on the pitch for the D.R Congo, however, the winger could only flash his solo effort past the post. The goal-hungry figure of Kessié would respond with a fearsome effort that stung the palms of Mpasi as the second half began in entertaining fashion.

Haller would in time redeem himself for his earlier miss in the 65th minute as he cleverly positioned himself in the penalty area before firing Max Gradel’s deep cross into the corner of the net beyond Mpasi.

Embed from Getty Images

Amid a couple more missed chances for Haller to take home the match ball, the Borussia Dortmund striker’s goal ultimately turned out to be the Ivory Coast’s ticket through to a mouthwatering final against Nigeria on Sunday.