Côte d'Ivoire overcame a stubborn Uganda 3-1 at the ongoing TotalEnergies African Nations Championship (CHAN) on Sunday to progress to the quarter-finals of the tournament in Algeria.
The result of the thrilling encounter at the Nelson Mandela Stadium in Algiers helped the Elephants to leapfrog previous group leaders Uganda to seal their place in the last eight.
Versatile forward Sankara Karamoko found the back of the net with a diving header from a well-taken Constant Wayou freekick on the right to beat the Ugandan defense that was caught offguard to give the Local Elephants a deserved lead in the 12th minute.
The Ivorians had kicked off the game on a high note asking questions that the Ugandans answered until that Karamoko effort changed the course of the game.
Just as the Ugandans seemed to have found their feet, Koffi Habib Cirille Ande made a fine run from the right side to send an incredible pass into the box to his Lys Sassandra teammate Vignon Ouotro who made no mistake and doubled the lead for the Ivorians who were cruising in the 27th minute.
Ugandan youngster Rogers Mato, who features for KCCA FC, made a quick run into the box and when he was brought down by Ande, Cameroonian referee Ngwa Yuven pointed to the spot.
Midfielder Moses Waiswa stepped up and sent a powerful shot into the back of the net to give the Cranes hope in the 31st minute. Ivorian goalkeeper Charles Ayayi Folly had a slight touch on the ball by an inch, but the ball was destined to find the net.
In the second half, Ugandan captain Milton Karisa battled the Ivorian defene, chipping Aziz Siahoune Abdoul and Kouassi Attohoula Yao but his attempt at goal was picked up by Folly to keep the Ivorian lead intact.
The Cranes continued their search for an equaliser when SC Villa youngster Travis Mutyaba started a move from the midfield before setting up Karisa who cut inside to Mato, but his attempt went straight into Folly's hands to deny the Cranes.
Ugandan coach Milutin 'Micho' Sredojevic introduced striker Nelson Senkatuka to add some firepower upfront but the Ivorians had been consistent in their shape all night denying Uganda the ball. The Local Elephants at some point in the game enjoyed 62% ball possession.
The Local Elephants continued pressing upfront in search of a third goal to seal the game and in 19-year-old Asec Mimosas forward Karamoko, they enjoyed a player whose explosive runs continued to put the Ugandan defence under pressure.
Karamoko's efforts were rewarded when his timely pass was converted by substitute Aubin Kouame Kramo to make it 3-1 for the Local Elephants in the 78th minute.
The Ugandans who drew encouragement from captain Karisa continued daring to overturn the lead and when in the 89th minute, Mutyaba had a chance to score just outside the penalty box, but his powerful shot hit the crossbar before bouncing off just outside the line as the Ivorians survived late drama.
Soualiho Haidara's side held on to register their first victory at the tournament to overturn their fortunes that saw them start Sunday's game as the bottom-placed team in Group B to finish with four points tied with Uganda but with a head-to-head advantage and into the last eight.
This is only the second time that the Local Elephants have progressed from the group stages having finished third at the 2016 edition in Rwanda.
Meanwhile, the Uganda Cranes have failed to make it past the group stages in each of the last six consecutive editions that they have qualified for.
Côte d'Ivoire will now face hosts Algeria in the first quarterfinal matchup on January 27 at the same venue at 1600hrs GMT.