Former AFC Bournemouth and Leeds United forward Gradel is the man who stole the show for the two-time Africa Cup of Nations champions after 20 yards right foot stunner just five minutes in.

The Elephants captainMax Gradel scored a spectacular winner as the Elephants held on a narrow lead to beat Equatorial Guinea 1-0 in their AFCON opener.

Equatorial Guinea created lots of chances but failed to utilize after Iban Salvador sliced their best one just wide from seven yards. Before Badra Ali Sangare later saved from Emilio Nsue to keep Ivory Coast into the game.

The Elephants go top of Group E after defending champions Algeria were held to a 0-0 draw by Sierra Leone on Tuesday.

Despite Equarorial Guinea’s Douala, appealing for a foul on Jose Machin in the build-up before Grdel’s goal, referee Redouane Jiyed confirmed the goal after VAR intervention.

Equatorial Guinea kept pushing for an equaliser after a Basilio Ndong was thwarted by Elephants keeper Badra, who repalced first-choice stopper Slyvain Gbohouo after he was banned on the eve of the tournament for an alleged doping violation.

Nicolas Pepe came in, and could almost settled it for the Elephants, only for Equatorial Guinea stopper Manuel Sapunga Mbara punched away the Arsenal forward shot.

Substitute Wilfred Zaha also almost doubled it for Ivory Coast, but wastefully steered the ball wide the crossbar.

With the first round of fixtures completes across the six groups, 10 of the 12 games have been decided by a single goal, only two ending goalless.

Ivory Coast face Sierra Leone in their next second game on Sunday, while Equatorial Guinea take on wounded Algeria same day in the evening.