Nicolas Pepe scored an early goal for the Ivory Coast as they reclaimed their spot on top of their CAF World Cup qualification group.

Ivory Coast's forward Nicolas Pepe (L) kicks the ball 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 Khaled DESOUKI / AFP / Getty Images)
Ivory Coast’s forward Nicolas Pepe (L) kicks the ball 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 Khaled DESOUKI / AFP / Getty Images)

After he was absent for Ivory Coast’s first international fixture of the October break, presumably due to travel restrictions, Nicolas Pepe took no time at all to have an impact in their home clash with Malawi.

It was only the second minute of the game when Eric Bailly sent a long ball forward for Pepe to chase. At first, it looked like the defender would control it, but the bounce took him by surprise.

Pepe was quickest to react, pouncing on the ball and slotting it into the net past the stranded goalkeeper for 1-0.

You can watch the goal here from 0:11, but try to ignore the commentator referring to Pepe as “Pep”.

As well as being Pepe’s first game of the break, it was also his first appearance for Ivory Coast in a while. It’d been over six months since his last game for his country, so it was good to see him returning in style.

Malawi scored an equaliser in the 20th minute, but Franck Kessie helped Pepe’s side retake the lead in the 66th from the penalty spot.

Ivory Coast secured the three points, taking them back above Cameroon, who had won earlier in the day. There’s still just one point in it, however, so there’s everything to play for in the remaining two group games.

Given Cameroon face Ivory Coast in the final group game, we could be heading for an exciting finish to the fight for top spot and qualification to the play-off stage.

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