Elephants win

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MALABO Didier Drogbas 52nd goal in national colours was enough for Ivory Coast to seal a 1-0 win and three points in the opening Group B match of the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations finals against Sudan in Malabo last night.

The match kicked off in a calm fashion, as neither side rushed to make any significant attack with the ball kept mostly in the middle third.

The first significant attack arrived on 11 minutes as Igor Lolo burst down the right flank and Gervinho fired in a powerful shot, but it whistled just over the goal face. Moments later Drogba saw his attempted attack end after he was flagged offside.

It was the Chelsea man again who rattled the Sudanese defence as he unleashed a long-range 30-yard drive from the middle of the field, but it skipped just wide of the left post.

Sudan was putting up an impressive display as they remained compact at the back, leaving the Elephants in a desperate search to create more ideas up-front.

Despite the dominant possession and the tricky passing, as the half hour mark approached the Ivorians became increasingly frustrated while Sudan grew in confidence.

Cheick Tiote crossed to Gervinho, who with a free header put his effort over the crossbar, while moments later Yaya Toures through ball to Drogba was overcooked.

Nevertheless, six minutes from the half-way mark, the deadlock was finally broken by Drogba. Salomon Kalou crossed from the left flank to find Didier Drogba, who headed it home from close range.

But the Sudanese responded with two swift attacks as Ahmed Al Bashas shot went just wide from close range, while another attempt kissed the crossbar.
After the restart the Sudan attack tested the keeping skills of Boubacar Barry, but the Ivorian did well to stop Alaaeldin Yousif.

The Desert Hawks were showing pace and more eagerness in their play. Just before the hour mark each team had an attack as Eltaib Mudather saw his header tipped over by Boubacar Barry, while Mouez Mohjob nearly spilt Gervinhos shot into the back of the net as the Arsenal player made a great exchange with Yaya Toure.

Seventy-seven minutes in, Gervinho continued to prove to be the Ivoirians main threat in attack as he had a chance to double the lead, but his shot was off target once more.

Just before the full time whistle the Elephants saw yet another set-piece go to waste as they saw out a narrow win over a composed Sudan side who refused to buckle under the underdogs label.

The other two teams in the group Angola and Burkina Faso were also in action last night in a game that was scheduled to start at 9pm.