(Reuters) - The Ivory Coast dumped defending champions Algeria out of the Africa Cup of Nations, Mali topped Group F and minnows Comoros Islands, Equatorial Guinea and Gambia advanced to the last 16 as the group phase came to a dramatic close on Thursday.
Algeria went home, bottom of their group in a spectacular fall from grace, as they lost 3-1 in Douala to the Ivorians in a match they had to win to stay in the tournament.
Nicolas Pepe scored a superb solo goal and Franck Kessie and Ibrahim Sangare added the others while Riyad Mahrez missed a penalty for Algeria.
Equatorial Guinea were second in the group after edging Sierra Leone 1-0 in Limbe with Pablo Gannet’s 38th-minute goal ensuring their second win of the tournament.
Sierra Leone would have also grabbed a slot in the last-16 as one of the four best third-placed finishers had they drawn but veteran striker Kei Kamara missed a last-minute penalty to scupper their chances.
His effort was saved by Equatorial Guinea’s 20-year-old goalkeeper Jesus Owono, allowing the tiny Comoros Island to go through without kicking a ball.
They were waiting to find out whether they would advance as one of the best third-placed finishers after their shock 3-2 win over Ghana on Tuesday and will play hosts Cameroon on Monday.
Mali topped Group F after Massadio Haidara’s early goal set them on their way to a comfortable 2-0 victory over Mauritania in Douala.
Haidara scored the fastest goal of the tournament as he netted after 92 seconds, before Mali added a second via the penalty spot through striker Ibrahima Kone.
Mali play Equatorial Guinea in the next round.
Gambia were runners-up, on goal difference, and Tunisia went through in third place.
Gambia upset the Tunisians with a last-gasp 1-0 win in Limbe thanks to Ablie Jallow’s scorching left foot shot in the closing stages.
It was another of the tournament’s shock results following Equatorial Guinea beating Algeria on Sunday and the Comorians sending heavyweights Ghana packing.
Tunisia, without 10 players isolating after contracting the COVID-19 virus, squandered a penalty and had two players sent off.
The round of 16 kicks off on Sunday with Burkina Faso playing Gabon in Limbe and Nigeria up against Tunisia in Garoua.
(Editing by Ed Osmond)