Didier Drogba’s talismanic qualities helped Ivory Coast make a winning, if not impressive, start to the African Nations Cup finals as he scored the only goal against a stubborn Sudan.with Angola, who beat Burkina Faso 2-1 in Sunday’s other match in Malabo.
Drogba extended his scoring streak at the Nations Cup to a fourth successive tournament
The Ivorians, heavily favoured to take the continental title at the tournament co-hosted by Equatorial Guinea and Gabon, share the early lead in Group B , and took his overall tally to eight, with a 38th-minute header to leave Sudan empty-handed.
The Chelsea player was quick to admit the nature of the Ivorian triumph against a side ranked more than 100 places below them was anything but impressive.
“I’m just very happy we got the points,” said the 33-year-old, whose role in the Ivorians’ failure in the three previous tournaments to live up to their favourites tag has been extensively highlighted in the build-up to the latest edition.
“We did some things well and some things not so well, but the main thing was that we won the match.”
The goal was a trademark Drogba effort, timing his run and jump perfectly to deliver a forceful header from close range from a cross by Chelsea team mate Salomon Kalou.
Gervinho might have scored a second after the break after a slip by Sudan goalkeeper Mahjoub El Moez, who recovered in time to prevent the ball crossing the line.
Sudan proved anything but overawed and only the faintest of touches by Ivorian goalkeeper Boubacar Barry prevented Mudather Tayeb from equalising just minutes after Drogba’s opener.
CHANCE TO ADVANCE
Sudan will feel they still have a chance to advance to the last eight Even though they are still to win a match at the tournament since 1970.
They would likely need to win against both Angola and Burkina Faso, who shared three goals in a lively second half after an opening 45 minutes of aimless running.
Defensive slips cost the Burkinabe dear, allowing first Mateus to score and then former Manchester United striker Manucho to grab the winner.
In between Alain Traore, only passed fit on the eve of the match, netted a stunning, but ultimately fruitless, long-range free kick for Burkina Faso.
Malabo’s Estadio Nuevo, which has a 16,000-capacity, was far from full, reflecting high ticket prices for the event.
On Monday, the newly-built stadium in Libreville is expected to be at its 45,000 capacity when co-hosts Gabon open their campaign against debutants Niger.
The first Group C match will be followed straight away by a mouth watering clash between Morocco and Tunisia, two past winners seeking to restore former glories.