Kessie on the spot to seal Ivory Coast win over Niger

Ivory Coast's forward Wilfried Zaha (3rd-R) celebrates after scoring a goal during the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (CAN) Round of 16 football match between Ivory Coast and Mali at the Suez Stadium in the north-eastern Egyptian city on July 8, 2019. (Photo by FADEL SENNA / AFP) (Photo credit should read FADEL SENNA/AFP/Getty Images)
Ivory Coast’s forward Maxwel Cornet celebrates his goal with teammates during the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (CAN) Group D football match between Namibia and Ivory Coast  (Photo  credit KHALED DESOUKI/AFP/Getty Images)

AC Milan midfielder Franck Kessie scored a second-half penalty as Ivory Coast laboured to a 1-0 victory over Niger in their opening 2021 Africa Cup of Nations Group K qualifier in Abidjan on Saturday.

It was the second spot-kick of the game for the home side, after Max Gradel missed a first-half chance from 12 yards having argued furiously with Arsenal forward Nicolas Pepe over who would take the kick.

Pepe won the first penalty when he was felled in the box and wanted to take it, but had the ball snatched from him by Gradel, who then saw his effort saved by Niger goalkeeper Kassaly Daouda.

Kessie was able to spare Gradel’s blushes though when the Ivorians were given a second chance from the spot after Kessie’s cross was handled in the box.

This time the kick was stroked confidently into the bottom corner as Kessie netted his first international goal.