Africa Cup of Nations: Nigeria 0-1 Ivory Coast
Ivory Coast secured a major victory against fellow favourites Nigeria in the first match to be held in Sekondi.
Chelsea's Saloman Kalou left three Nigerian defenders
standing, after 66 minutes, to shoot home from 15 yards to score the
only goal of the game.
Despite the abundance of talent in the Super Eagles' squad, Berti Vogts' team laboured but were unable to respond.
Newcastle United's Obafemi Martins came closest to scoring for Nigeria in the first half, shooting at the goalkeeper.
The first match in Sekondi hosted one of the most
anticipated games of the tournament, with two heavyweights of African
football, Nigeria and Ivory Coast meeting on the second day of the
Nigeria captain Nwankwo Kanu smashed a long-range shot high and wide in the first few minutes to open hostilities.
Ivory Coast then hit back with a thirty-yard effort from
Arsenal's Kolo Toure before Obafemi Martins, of Newcastle United,
forced a save from Elephant's goalkeeper Boubacar Barry on 11 minutes.
The noisy Nigerian crowd, driven-on by an army of
trumpeters, were lifted to their feet when Taye Taiwo crashed a
thirty-yard free kick against the Ivorians crossbar.
The trading of blows continued as Chelsea's Didier
Drogba tested Nigeria's goalkeeper Austine Ejide at the other end with
a direct free kick from a similar distance.
Ominously for Nigeria's Super Eagles, it was Ivory Coast
who were looking the more settled after 20 minutes, showing greater
composure in the final third and maintaining more possession.
Martins looked the most dangerous player for the Super
Eagles, though his efforts were reduced to speculative shots from
Drogba was trying to shake off his injury-derived
rustiness as the Ivorians attempted to fashion an opening, in what was
becoming an intriguing tactical duel.
Taiwo gave the Super Eagles some hope, when he crossed
from the byeline but failed to find Everton's Yakubu Aiyegbeni, who was
well positioned in the centre of the area.
Yakubu then blazed a fierce shot over the bar from the
edge of the area after finding a yard of space from his marker Steve
The game remained goalless after 45 minutes of sparring
between the midfields, and tight defending from the likes of Nigeria's
Joseph Yobo and Ivory Coast's Kolo Toure.
Elephant's coach Gerard Gili replaced Gohouri with Kader
Keita for the second half, after the Borussia Monchengladbach man had
been given a torrid time by Obafemi Martins.
Fresh from the break the Super Eagles created some good moves, with Kanu dropping short to thread the play.
A robust challenge ends such creativity, with Onyekachi
Okonkwo needed to replace an injured Kanu, who was stretchered off the
Ivory Coast pushed on and forced a corner from which Kolo Toure thrashed a shot into the well placed legs Ejide.
Ejide was called into action shortly after as he
smothered an inviting slide-rule pass to Aruna Dindane, on the edge of
the five-yard box.
The sparring continued until a flash of individual brilliance from Chelsea's Saloman Kalou, broke the deadlock.
Picking up the ball on the left wing, Kalou swerved
right, then left, to beat three players before sending Ejide in the
wrong direction, placing the ball into the back of the net. The
Nigerians were reeling on the ropes, as Kador went close, blasting wide
from 15 yards, and Kalou failed to connect properly with a well placed
ball inside the area.
Vogts substituted Portsmouth's John Utaka for Osaze
Odemwingie of Lokomotiv Moscow, on 73 minutes to try and add some fresh
legs to his weary-looking side.
The Ivorians still pushed forward and remained dangerous despite Didier Drogba being a peripheral player.
Vogts tries a final roll of the dice, replacing Martins
with Lazio's Ayodele Makinwa, but Nigeria remained flat and unable to