Ivory Coast into quarter-finals

Didier Drogba's team prevails over Michael Essien's side with a 3-1 victory to enter the quarter-finals of the African Cup of Nations.

Ivory Coast became the first team to reach the 2010 Africa Cup of Nations quarter-finals with a 3-1 triumph over severely depleted Ghana in Group B. It was a polished performance by the Elephants, who were reduced to 10 men on 56 minutes when Arsenal defender Emmanuel Eboue was red-carded for a vicious tackle from behind on Opoku Agyemang with his team one goal ahead. Victory lifted the title favourites to four points from two matches. Ghana and Burkina Faso will clash on Tuesday to decide the other quarter-finalist after Togo withdrew from the tournament. The Lille forward Kouassi 'Gervinho' Yao put Ivory Coast ahead midway through the first half, Siaka Tiene scored direct from a free-kick after 67 minutes and the Chelsea striker Didier Drogba completed the victory in the final minute.

Ghana got a stoppage-time consolation goal via an Asamoah Gyan penalty after he had been fouled by Souleman Bamba. Coach Vahid Halilhodzic made one change to the Ivorian team that failed to sparkle when held to a goalless draw by Burkina Faso last Monday, with Chelsea forward Salomon Kalou replacing Bakary Kone. Ghana kicked off without eight first-choice players in defenders John Pantsil and John Mensah, midfielders Anthony Annan, Stephen Appiah, Michael Essien, Laryea Kingson and Sulley Muntari and striker Asamoah Gyan. The absence of so many regulars meant Wigan goalkeeper and fourth-choice captain Richard Kingson, a brother of Laryea, wore the armband until Essien came on for the second half with Gyan. Midfielder Didier Zokora stung the fingers of Laryea Kingson with a fierce drive that was parried for a corner and captain Drogba blazed a free-kick over during the early exchanges.

Ivory Coast took the lead with a master-class in counter-attacking as a sliding tackle just outside their penalty area deprived Ghana of possession and set in motion one of the slickest goals so far seen in the tournament. The ball was stroked into the path of Barcelona man Yaya Toure and his superb pass sprang the offside trap for Kalou, who crossed for Gervinho to tap the ball into an unguarded net. Ghana made little impact in attack until six minutes before half-time when Ivorian goalkeeper Boubacar Barry, considered the weak link in the team, dived to his left and superbly parried a Kwadwo Asamoah drive. The presence of Essien, playing for the first time since early December when injured in a Champions League clash, offered hope to the four-time champions and the dismissal of Eboue threatened to tilt the balance.

Mathew Amoah was unlucky not to equalise soon after as his volley struck the base of a post and flew wide with Barry helpless. But midway through the half the Ivorians doubled their lead against the run of play as Tiene curled a left-footed free-kick from wide on the right over Kingson and into the roof of the net. Playing a man short appeared to be having no effect on the Ivorians as they continued to attack and Drogba headed in a left-wing cross on 90 minutes to complete a handsome success. * AFP