African Cup of Nations - Drogba gives Ivory Coast winning start

Sun, 22 Jan 17:54:00 2012

Didier Drogba's first-half header gave Ivory Coast a 1-0 win in their African Cup of Nations opener against Sudan.

Didier Drogba Ivory Coast - 0

It was a trademark header by the forward, who leapt high to power the ball in after good work by his Chelsea team-mate Salomon Kalou.

Sudan proved stubborn in defence and almost responded immediately, but Moutata's shot was tipped onto the bar by Barry.

Ivory Coast should have wrapped the game up in the second half but Gervinho, Yaya Toure and Drogba were guilty of bad misses.

Given the star quality throughout their team, it's not hard to see why Ivory Coast are favourites to win the African Cup of Nations,

But this was a disjointed display by the Elephants with Sudan reducing them to a handful of half chances in the opening 45 minutes.

Gervinho missed the best of these, firing over after a neat turn on the box before heading over the bar from just a few yards out.

But Ivory Coast eventually moved ahead five minutes before half-time, and it came after a move of top quality from three Premier League playerse.

Newcastle's Cheick Tiote started the move off with a beautiful cross field pass to the left that Salomon Kalou controlled well and crossed to his Chelsea colleague Drogba, who powered in his header.

Sudan, who had shown themselves to be more than capable of dealing with the threat posed by their opponents, almost found the back of the net a few moments later, but Barry tipped onto the bar.

The game remained cagey into the second half, but Sudan tentatively pushed forward in search of an equaliser.

They came close to finding one when Mudathir El-Tahir made a smart run to the near post and glanced his header towards goal, with Barry forced to tip over again.

But that was as close as they came, with the Ivory Coast spurned a string of second-half chances - Arsenal's Gervinho and Manchester City's Yaya Toure were guilty of wasting the best of them.

Drogba could well have settled it midway through the second period when he sent his volley just over from 20 yards, seemingly unaware of the space the Sudan defence had afforded him.

But the misses mattered little in the end as the favourites, as lethargic as they were at times, cruised to victory with plenty to spare.

Michael Da Silva - on Twitter @mjdasilva / Eurosport

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