Cote D’Ivoire defeated Benin 2-I on Sunday to keep their stranglehold on Group H with nine points, taking another giant step towards their qualification for the 2012 African Cup of Nations.
Due to continued political violence in Cote D’Ivoire, the match had to be relocated to Accra, Ghana, where both West African teams faced-off against each other at a half-full Ohene Djan Sports Stadium, a ground familiar to both sides.
Cote D’Ivoire tried to step up pressure as early as possible but the Beninese were able to bog down the session until near the 20th minute when Chelsea’s Salomon Kalou raced off with a ball and cracked a strike into Benin back net but the goal was disallowed as advancing Didier Drogba was flagged offside.
Benin’s reaction came via Bahrain club side East Riffa Club midfielder Seidath Tchomogo who coursed through the Ivorian defence disorganized by a major howler and unleashed a strike the Ivorian goalkeeper failed to anticipate early enough, putting the Squirrels in the lead by the 23rd minute.
The Elephants maintained territorial and technical domination across the moments to level up, but most of their goal efforts perished before finishing, with Benin beefing up their back half to contain the ceaseless assaults.
Looking as if the Beninese would keep their lead into the break, Drogba shattered that hope with a 45th minute equalizer that refocused the Elephants who had been surprisingly in disarray in face of a somewhat minnow formation.
Much of the second half was dictated by the Ivorians, whose star-studded squad exerted skill and strength in search of a leading goal, which came through when French Ligue 1 Lyon former master dribbler Kader Keita displaced two of his markers to serve Drogba who registered a brace in the 76th minute to demoralize a determined Benin side.
The rest of the game played out with no much difference, except for Hamburger SV right back Guy Demel who was sent off for a rough tackle on a Benin player, reducing the Ivorian team to 10, fortunately in the last moments of the encounter which finally ended 2-1 in favour of the Ivorians.
Cote D’Ivoire now safely top Group H with 9 points, followed by Benin 4pts, Rwanda 3pts and Burundi 1pt.
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