Yaya Toure was able to score his first goal of the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations to help Ivory Coast reach the final for the second time in three years, despite an unconvincing display.
Though Toure and his new Manchester City team-mate Wilfried Bony were not at their best, against a Democratic Republic of Congo side that few teams expected to get even this far, Toure’s strike was still the highlight of an entertaining match.
This has not been a great tournament for City’s midfield powerhouse.
Unable to influence games as he might like, he has been reduced to merely a forceful personality, vociferously encouraging his team-mates, rather than a forceful performer, leading by example.
But, in the 20th minute, he showed that he can still produce moments of magic. After Bony had been dispossessed in the box, the ball broke to Toure on the edge of the box. As it bounced across his body, the ball sat up perfectly for the 31-year-old, and he seemed to let out three weeks of tension in the strike, which flew past veteran keeper Robert Kidiaba before he could do more than flap at it. The shot was not far from the 38-year-old keeper, but it is hard to fault him for failing to save it. Had he been able to react quickly enough to get a hand on it, it would have needed to be made of steel to divert the thunder-strike off target.
The lead lasted just a few seconds. As has been their way all the way through this competition, the Congolese forwards reacted to going behind – although in truth they had a helping hand from both Eric Bailly and referee Neant Alioum.
A hopeful ball into the box drifted over the head of Jeremy Bokila, and struck Bailly on the hand, but quite how he was supposed to have deliberately handled from behind the striker is anyone’s guess. Nonetheless, Alioum pointed to the spot and Dieumercie Mbokani calmly side-footed into the corner.
But, once again, when finding themselves on level terms, DR Congo went back into their shell. Eventually they were punished when Yannick Bolasie gifted the ball to Wilfried Bony deep in his own half, the new City striker feeding Gervinho who finished with aplomb.
Soon after the former Arsenal forward had another chance, running at goal from the right wing before being denied by a brilliant recovery tackle from Jean Kasusula.
The third goal, which killed the game off, came from a corner, Serge Aurier’s header parried into the path of Serge Kanon, who steered it home with a knee. It was harsh on DR Congo, who had dominated for much of the game.
The Ivorians will go into the final, against either Ghana or hosts Equatorial Guinea, as strong favourites. Rather like their captain’s performance, this is not a vintage side, but it might well prove to be enough. Despite the ‘golden generation’ seemingly being well past their best, they are on the verge of finally winning a major tournament.