Seko Fofana scored a superb goal as the Ivory Coast defeated Gambia 2-0 on Monday to reclaim first place in a 2026 World Cup African qualifying group.
After scoring nine times against Seychelles last week, the Ivorians found the Gambians much tougher opposition and were clinging to a one-goal Group F lead with five minutes remaining.
As Gambia then retreated under pressure, Saudi Arabia-based Fofana unleashed a thunderbolt from well outside the box that flew over goalkeeper Modou Jobe into the roof of the net.
Christian Kouame had put the three-time World Cup qualifiers ahead in the final minute of the opening half, pushing a rebound off Jobe into the net from close range.
Ivory Coast top the mini-league with six points, ahead of Gabon on goal difference, and three points above Kenya and Burundi. Gambia and Seychelles are pointless.
After being overwhelmed 9-0 by Ivory Coast — a record losing margin for an African World Cup qualifier — Seychelles suffered another heavy defeat as they fell 5-0 to Kenya.
Michael Olunga scored twice for the Kenyans within six minutes of the kick-off and their other goals came from Masoud Juma, Rooney Onyango and Benson Omala.
Mali, the top seeds in Group I, replaced Comoros as leaders despite being held 1-1 at home by the Central African Republic.
Kamory Doumbia broke the deadlock on 76 minutes, but the Malians led for only three minutes before Geoffrey Kondogbia equalised.
In the same group, Madagascar put an unlucky loss to Ghana last week behind them with a 3-0 victory away to Chad.
Thailand-based Njiva Rakotoharimalala netted in each half before Loic Lapoussin completed the scoring.
Mali have four points, Comoros, Madagascar and Ghana three each, Central African Republic one and Chad none.
Equatorial Guinea rose to the top of Group H thanks to a 1-0 win in Liberia, where Emilio Nsue netted after nine minutes. The home side had Nohan Kenneh red-carded just before half-time.
An opportunist 39th-minute strike from Mauro Rodrigues earned Guinea-Bissau a 1-0 Group A win over Djibouti, who had conceded six goals against Egypt in the previous round.
Victory lifted Guinea-Bissau to four points, two less than Egypt, who have been African champions a record seven times but have qualified for the World Cup only on three occasions.
Matchday two concludes on Tuesday with 15 fixtures and 2022 World Cup semi-finalists Morocco, reigning African champions Senegal, Cameroon, Ghana and South Africa will be in action.