Day 6 - The most anticipated match of the group stage at the CAF Africa Cup of Nations in Angola ended with Côte d'Ivoire defeating an under-strength Ghana team 3-1 to clinch a spot in the knockout rounds.
Cracking goals 20 minutes either side of half-time gave Vahid Halilhodzic’s side a lead before the African heavyweights traded late scores in Cabinda. The Elephants jump to the top of Group B with four points, and they successfully banish memories of their scoreless draw with Burkina Faso to open the tournament.
Ghana must beat the Burkinabe in the last remaining group contest on 19 January to also reach the quarter-finals, while Côte d'Ivoire will not play again in the group due to the shortened schedule resulting from the withdrawal of Togo.
Goal of the day
Côte d'Ivoire 1-0 Ghana, Gervinho (23’)
The Elephants had the best start, and they demonstrated their class moments after Ghana’s first chance of the match with a precise and speedy counter attack. A tackle outside their box started the move and Gervinho continued it through the middle of the park with an aggressive run before Yaya Toure picked out a streaking Saloman Kalou down the right. The Chelsea man did well to pull it back into the path of the still-running Gervinho, who tapped in simply at the end of the long move. The emerging 22-year-old winger is currently top scorer in the French Ligue 1 with Lille and is sure to be one of the players to watch at South Africa 2010.
Asamoah tests Barry twice
Ghana’s emerging 21-year-old talent Kwadwo Asamoah gave Elephants goalkeeper Boubacar Barry all manner of trouble in the match. In the 20th minute he turned with devastating quickness and fired a left-footed shot from the edge of the area that forced the best from the netminder. The Udinese man proved he could do it from a set piece as well, when his long free-kick in the 63rd minute drew Barry out of his goal and then almost curled over his head before the goalkeeper managed to punch it away.
A moment of madness
With Michael Essien still recovering from injury and only on at half-time, Ghana managed to establish themselves more in the opening minutes of the second half. And it looked like things were about to get a lot better for them when Côte d'Ivoire player Emmanuele Eboue lost his head in the tackle and was sent off with a straight red card. The Arsenal veteran's clumsy two-footed lunge on Opoku Agyemang in his own half left South African referee Jerome Damon little choice, and while his side managed to win the match he will miss their next contest through suspension.
Postage stamp to Angola
After going down to 10 men, Côte d'Ivoire looked vulnerable to the building confidence of their West African rivals. However, against the run of play, appeared an unlikely hero: France-based defender Siaka Tiene. His left-footed free-kick from 30 yards out on the right whistled into the near-post corner past a flapping Richard Kingson. Though there were further dramatics to follow, Ghana never seemed like they were up for coming from two goals behind.
Dramatic finishes for both
After a lacklustre showing against Burkina Faso, Kada Keita made an immediate impact upon entering the match for Côte d'Ivoire in the 84th minute. He showed all of his skill and determination in twisting free with the ball on the left side of Ghana’s box, and his pinpoint cross to the far post was met by the rising head of Drogba for the third goal. And while that surely sealed the result, Ghana got some consolation at the other end as Asamoah Gyan won and converted a penalty in the 3rd minute of injury time.
2 - The number of sons of Ghanaian legend Abedi Pele that started for Ghana on Thursday night. Rahim and Andre Ayew are 21 and 20 years old respectively, and are part of a golden generation of Ghanaian football. Andre was on the team that won the FIFA U-20 World Cup last October in Egypt, and three more of his teammates started against the Elephants.
What they said
“We showed good fighting spirit in this game, and we created good chances. Ghana is a very good team, but they were missing two good players. We had to play 35 minutes with 10 men, but we played well without Emmanuel Eboue. We played as a family and we will take the three points for him." Côte d'Ivoire striker Didier Drogba.
Nigeria - Benin (16 Jan. 16:00 GMT)
Egypt - Mozambique (16 Jan. 18:30 GMT)
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