Chelsea striker Didier Drogba scored a first-half header as pre-tournament favourites Ivory Coast opened their Africa Cup of Nations campaign with a 1-0 win against Sudan on Sunday.
The Elephants dominated the first half but squandered several chances before Drogba eventually opened the scoring. The 33-year-old connected with a cross from Blues team-mate Salomon Kalou in the 39th minute to cap a period of domination of the side he captains.
Winner: Drogba is mobbed after his first-half strike
Ivory Coast: Barry, Lolo, Bamba, Toure, Tiene, Kalou (Gradel 64), Gosso, Tiote (Keita 80), Toure Yaya, Drogba, Gervinho (Doumbia 89). Subs not used: Yeboah, Boka, Zokora, Bony, Konan, Coulibaly, Eboue, Gnanahouan.
Goal: Drogba 39.
Sudan: Maghoub, Ballah, Ali, Abdullah, Basheer, Kamal (Alrahman 62), Yousif, Nazar, Mustafa, Mudather, Bashir (Tahir 74). Subs not used: Mohammed, Eldin, Omar, Ramadan, Faisal Musa, Galag, Khalifa, Mohamed Musa, Alrahman, El Hadi.
Booked: Abdullah, Yousif.
Referee: Rajin Seechurn (Mauritius)
Sudan came into the game from that point on, having initially set up to contain their opponents, but Drogba’s remained the only goal of the match.
Gervinho fired over with the first shot of the game before Najem Abdullah was booked for fouling the Arsenal forward.
Jean-Jacques Gosso’s 25-yard swipe was wildly off target and Yaya Toure and Gervinho were off target with headers.
Gervinho lashed wastefully wide following Drogba’s superb control and lay-off but the opener finally arrived when Salomon Kalou crossed from the left for Chelsea team-mate Drogba to head home his 51st international goal.
Sudan, ranked 120th in the world compared to their opponents’ mark of 18th, almost found an immediate response when Hamid Nazar’s mishit shot was controlled by Mohamed Bashir, who fired wide, and then Eltaib Mudather cut inside and saw his shot tipped onto the crossbar by keeper Boubacar Barry.
Captain marvel: Drogba skippered a side containing seven English-based players
Sudan started the second half brightly but Barry saved from Alaadine Yousif and Nazar shot wide.
Gervinho’s close-range effort almost caused problems for keeper Elmuez Maghoub before Mudather injured himself as he landed awkwardly after a ludicrously ambitious overhead effort from around 30 yards
The Ivory Coast looked to kill the game off but substitute Max Gradel dragged a shot hopelessly wide and Drogba volleyed over.
Gervinho then struck a dropping ball just high and wide of the target and Toure got his 25-yard effort all wrong before the game petered out, Nazar shooting well wide from Sudan’s last opportuni