The Chelsea forward scored the lone strike as his dominant side triumph in their opening game in MalaboCote D'Ivoire got its 2012 Africa Cup of Nations title challenge to a winning start with a 1-0 defeat of Sudan in Malabo on Sunday.
A Didier Drogba header on 39 minutes was all that separated the two sides at the end of regulation time.
The game started with the highly-rated Elephants, considered by many to be the favorites to collect the title, dictating the pace of things as they held possession and launched attacks on the Falcons of Jediane’s goal area.
Fielding a strong attacking line up, the Ivorians surged forward through Chelsea strikers Drogba and Salomon Kalou as well as Arsenal’s Gervinho in a three-pronged strikeforce.
They were assisted in the midfield by Manchester City’s reigning African Player of the Year Yaya Toure who broke down attacks from the Sudanese midfielders and set his team-mates through on goal.
The first attempt of the Sudanese to go forward came on 10 minutes but that was quickly broken up by the strong Ivorian midfield. It was an indication of confidence gained after they had played the opening spell in a cagey, defensive mode.
The Ivorians had their first opportunity to shoot at goal when Gervinho earned a free kick from just outside the box. Drogba’s resulting kick was tame and it was kept out by the Sudanese defence.
Drogba and co. kept in search of their opening goal with further attempts from the Chelsea man and Jean-Jacques Gosso both going wide.
The deadlock was broken as the game neared the interval when Kalou ran wide to the left before crossing to the middle, where Drogba rose highest to nod past Elmuez Mahgoub in the Falcon’s goal.
Sudan did not sit back after going behind, however, and it launched quick attacks in response. A Mohamed Bashir attempt went just wide of Boubacar Barry’s goal.
As the second half resumed, Barry was made to stretch in order to parry Alaadin Yousif’s shot from distance.
The Ivorians also searched for a second goal albeit without much urgency and were content to see the game peter out. They will next face up to neighbours Burkina Faso while Sudan take on Angola in Group B on January 26.Follow GOAL.COM USA on