United defender Eric Bailly endures mixed day as Ivory Coast exit Olympics

Manchester United defender Eric Bailly was back in action at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics today.

He started for the Ivory Coast in their quarter-final against Spain.

It was an opportunity for Bailly and his countrymen to cause a major shock, knocking out the pre-tournament favourites.

The central defender had a mixed game, as his country’s Olympic dream came to an end with a 5-2 defeat after extra time.

Ups and downs

Bailly scored the first goal of the match after just 10 minutes.

He bundled the ball home inside the box from a corner, stunning Spain to put Ivory Coast 1-0 up.

Bailly doesn’t score many so it was something of a collector’s item, but by half-time, it had been cancelled out by Dani Olmo’s strike.

The match remained 1-1 going into stoppage time, before Ivory Coast thought they’d won it.

Their captain Max Gradel fired home what looked for all the world like the winner in the first of five injury time minutes.

But Ivory Coast couldn’t see the game out. They failed to clear a cross into the box, despite getting two opportunities to head away.

The second chance fell to Bailly, but he was not decisive enough and Wolves striker Rafa Mir stole in ahead of him to equalise.

Vital penalty

Things got even worse in extra-time. Bailly gave away a crucial penalty, which was awarded after a VAR review.

He jumped with his hands way up above his head and blocked a Spanish goalbound header.

Mikel Oyarzabal made no mistake from the penalty spot to put Spain 3-2 ahead. It looked like Ivory Coast’s chance had gone and so it proved.

As they poured forward in search of an equaliser, the Ivorians left space at the back and Mir completed his hat-trick with two breakaway goals.

It was a day of mixed emotions for Bailly, eventually ending in heartbreak.

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Sam Preston is an NCTJ gold standard news and sports journalist who studied with the Press Association. He also has a 2:1 law with French law degree from the University of Birmingham, which included a year studying at Bordeaux Montaigne University. He is an FA Level 1 football coach who appeared on the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire show in 2018 and has also written digital football content and match-day programme pieces for Colchester United, Mansfield Town and Stockport County.