African Cup of Nations – Ivory Coast triumph over Ghana

Ten-man Ivory Coast defeated Ghana 3-1 in African Cup of Nations Group B as Arsenal midfielder Emmanuel Eboue saw red for a rash challenge.

Gervinho opened the scoring for the Ivorians after good work by Chelsea‘s Salomon Kalou while in the second half Siaka Tiene bent in a wonderful free-kick against the run of play to make it two.

Chelsea striker Didier Drogba made it three in injury-time with a header but there was still time for Ghana to win a penalty, the consolation converted by Asamoah Gyan.

The match was all Ivory Coast for the first half-hour, their opening goal coming on 23 minutes after an excellent team move.

A disciplined Ghana defence had stepped up to catch every member of their front three – Gervinho, Drogba and his club team-mate Kalou – offside on separate occasions.

However the fourth time they tried the trick, Barcelona’s Yaya Toure timed his pass down the flank for Kalou’s run to perfection, and he squared for the arriving Gervinho to score from 10 yards out in the centre of the box.

Before that Didier Zokora had seen successive strikes from distance parried away by Richard Kingson as the Elephants dominated midfield possession against less-experienced opposition.

However Ghana, led in attack by the keen Opoku Agyemang and missing the recovering Michael Essien along with several other stars, began to control the ball for greater periods. They were unable to fashion anything better than a half-chance, which invariably ended with a strike well wide of goal.

The Ivorians had adopted a cynical aspect to their defensive display: this boiled down to hacking at Ghana whenever their opponents crossed the halfway line on a cut-up pitch.

The disjointed nature of the contest was not helped by South African referee Jerome Damon, who whistled constantly, called decisions incorrectly and gave a particularly hard time to Agyemang; nevertheless, with Ivory Coast suddenly looking lost, the fans had an intriguing spectacle as half-time approached.

Kwadwo Asamoah went closest to scoring an equaliser, forcing a flying stop from Boubacar Barry with a vicious left-footed strike after a superb turn on the edge of the box.

Greater experience arrived at the break in the form of Essien and Asamoah Gyan, and Ghana again looked the better side in the middle of the park – without properly threatening Barry’s goal.

Eboue became frustrated and dived into a two-footed scissor tackle on Agyemang – who had his back to him – near halfway, prompting an immediate red card from the referee.

That galvanised Ghana, with Mathew Amoah volleying against the post barely two minutes later following a half-hearted clearance from Manchester City captain Kolo Toure.

Ivorian boss Vahid Halilhodzic had seen enough and replaced the quiet Gervinho – who had been at the centre of most of their good play in the opening stages of the match – with defender Guy Demel.

The move indirectly paid dividends when Tiene curled a delightful set-piece into the near-post top corner on 66 minutes – it was Ivory Coast’s second attack of the half.

There was a moment of worry for Essien when a challenge with Chelsea team-mate Drogba left him writhing in pain; after two minutes of treatment he continued, but only because Ghana had used all three substitutes.

He did not look mobile at all, but still went closest to pulling a goal back before the 90 were up – flashing two efforts wide of the post.

Kader Keita created the third goal through hard work and skill on the left, dinking a perfect cross for Drogba to rise majestically and head over a shell-shocked Kingson.

Straight afterwards, in the second minute of time added on, Gyan went down in the box under a non-existent challenge from Ivory Coast defender Soulemane Bamba – and Gyan himself sent Barry the wrong way for a hollow consolation.

Ivory Coast drew their opening game 0-0 with Burkina Faso while this was Ghana’s first match in the competition – they were scheduled to face tragic Togo last Monday.

African Cup of Nations on British Eurosport:

Saturday 3.45pm Nigeria v Benin / 6.15pm Egypt v Mozambique LIVE on British Eurosport (Sky 410 / Virgin 521) and Eurosport Player

Sunday 4pm Gabon v Tunisia LIVE / 6.15pm Cameroon v Zambia LIVE on British Eurosport (Sky 410 / Virgin 521) and Eurosport Player

Jonathan Symcox / Eurosport

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