2018 World Cup Qualifying - CAF, Round Three
  • Max Gradel (53')
  • Seydou Doumbia (77', 83')

Star-studded Elephants overpower Gabon

Seydou Doumbia of Ivory Coast Barry Aldworth/BackpagePix

Ivory Coast secured an important 3-0 win over Gabon in an African region World Cup qualifier at Stade de Franceville on Saturday night.

Max-Alain Gradel opening the scoring in the second half and Seydou Doumbia netted twice late on as Marc Wilmots' side took control of Group C in their quest for qualifiction for Russia 2018.

The Panthers, meanwhile, look increasingly unlikely to qualify after this result and still have to play the Ivorians and Morocco away from home.

Ivory Coast boasted a strong line-up as Gradel, Gervinho and Salomon Kalou -- fresh out of retirement -- supported Doumbia up front. In-form Jean Michael Seri pulled the strings in midfield with new AC Milan man Franck Kessie, while Manchester United's Eric Bailly and Tottenham Hotspur signing Serge Aurier operated in the backline.

Gabon lined up without talisman Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, whose absence from the national team squad has not been officially explained amid reports he was excused due to the proximity of the transfer deadline earlier this week.

As it were, Gabon kept their more superior opponents at bay in the first half but eventually caved in the 54th minute when Bournemouth forward Gradel -- on loan at Toulouse -- put his side ahead.

Roma striker Doumbia -- on loan at Sporting -- made the result emphatic with two further goals in the 77th and 84th as the Elephants moved to seven points in the group, two ahead of Morocco and five in front of Gabon.

Ivory Coast host the return fixture against Gabon in the fourth round on Tuesday while Mali -- who have only picked up one point in qualifying -- host second-placed Morocco, who gave them a 6-0 hiding on Friday.