African Cup of Nations – Burkina Faso frustrate Didier Drogba’s Ivory Coast

A superb rearguard action helped Burkina Faso hold Ivory Coast to a goalless Group B draw at the African Cup of Nations in Angola.

The match, played in the same group and Cabinda province that saw Togo exit the tournament after a fatal terror attack, was characterised by exceptional defending from the un-fancied Burkinabe team and a lack of ruthlessness in front of goal from pre-tournament favourites Ivory Coast – although they did have two good penalty appeals rejected in the first half.

The Ivorians, full of Premier League stars and led by Chelsea‘s Didier Drogba, dominated the first half as they kept almost 70 per cent of possession, while Burkina Faso sat deep and barely passed halfway.

Drogba had a penalty appeal rejected in the second minute after Paul Koulibaly seemed to trip him after a long ball from Manchester City defender Kolo Toure, while Bakari Kone flashed a drive just over three minutes later.

Kone had another good chance just after the quarter hour mark but heading is not his forte and the Marseille man put well when found unmarked by Gervino’s cross.

Sevilla’s former Tottenham midfielder Didier Zokora tried an ambitious long-range effort that keeper Daouda Diakite spilled but kept away from Twente midfielder Cheik Tiote, while Arsenal wide-man Emmanuel Eboue joined Drogba in suffering from his simulation reputation when play was waved on after a crude challenge from Ibrahim Tall.

A Drogba free-kick on 27 minutes wreaked havoc in the Burkinabe box as Barcelona star Yaya Toure flew in, but they survived that scare, as they did when Eboue raced clear on the right but fired just wide of the far post.

Full-back Saka Tiene put wide just after the half-hour after an inviting cross from Drogba wide right, while three minutes before half-time the Chelsea striker set up Kone with a glorious first-time ball inside, but Diakite did enough to palm the ball over.

For their part Burkina Faso offered little other than determined defending, with Hamburg winger Jonathan Pitroipa strangely subdued other than one run and cross and Al-Khor striker Moumouni Dagano – their top-scorer with 21 goals in 42 international matches – totally isolated with Kolo Toure and Hibernian man-mountain Sol Bamba not giving him an inch.

Somehow it was goalless at half time, and while the second half continued in a similar vein the Ivorians, strangely, created fewer meaningful chances.

Ten minutes in Kone fired over after a slick one-two with Yaya Toure but they laboured to test the Burkinabe defence, while Pitroipa and substitute Habib Bamogo found more space.

Dagano almost grabbed a shock 67th-minute lead with an audacious free-kick from 35 yards that Boubacar Barry just managed to parry, and seconds later the White Elephants should have gone ahead but Kone again put wide after being set-up by Gervino.

It was Kone’s last act of the match, with Galatasaray forward Kader Keita brought on in his place, although Drogba’s club team-mate Salomon Kalou was conspicuous in his absence from the pitch.

He finally made his introduction, with 18 minutes of normal time left. It had little effect though as they continued to toil in the face of very conservative opposition: at one point, with the counter attack on, Burkina Faso went all the way back to the goalkeeper.

There were a couple of late chances for both sides, with a Pitroipa shot blocked by Kolo Toure and Diakite tipping Dindane’s shot over, while Bamba headed a corner over in injury-time, obstructed by team-mate Kalou.

But Vahid Halilhodzic‘s side could not find a way through and had to settle for a very un-African shut-out.

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