Cote d'Ivoire reach quarter-finals
CABINDA, Angola (AP): Cte d'Ivoire (Ivory Coast) beat Ghana 3-1 to be the first quarter-finalist at the African Cup of Nations yesterday.
Ivory Coast, down to 10 men after Emmanuel Eboue was sent off in the 56th minute, have four points from two games in the tapered Group B, enough to guarantee a spot in the knock-out phase.
Following their disappointing opening 0-0 draw against Burkina Faso, the Ivorian stars had no room for mistakes and took advantage of an inexperienced Ghana plagued by injuries.
"We had to choose between two different paths. It was heaven or hell," Cte d'Ivoire coach Vahid Halilhodzic said. "The pressure was so huge. Our supporters and the whole nation wouldn't have forgiven us if we hadn't delivered. A great team is hatching out."
Ghana, who were playing their first game following Togo's withdrawal, will meet Burkina Faso next Tuesday in a winner-takes-all match. Each of the three teams will play only twice in Group B after Togo withdrew following a deadly attack against its team bus before the tournament started.
Gervinho, Siaka Tiene and Didier Drogba scored for Cte d'Ivoire, and Asamoah Gyan replied for Ghana in injury time.
Halilhodzic started without striker Baky Kone, who was replaced by Salomon Kalou after missing three clear chances against Burkina Faso.
Chelsea midfielder Michael Essien was left out of Ghana's starting line-up after a late arrival in Angola due to bad weather in England, while key players Stephen Appiah, Sulley Muntari and John Paintsil were missing. Essien was sent in after halftime for his first action in a month following a hamstring strain.
"Ivory Coast's experience and quality made the difference tonight," Ghana coach Milovan Rajevac said. "We were missing experienced players. I'm disappointed with the result, but the young players have shown character."
Essien had a good chance to narrow the gap in the 87th but missed the target with a low shot, before Kader Keita served up a superb cross from the left side for Drogba, with the striker heading home in the 90th.
"We were consistent from the beginning," Drogba said. "It was difficult for us because we stayed compact and played well on counter-attacks."
Gyan scored a consolation goal from the spot in injury time.