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Last Updated: Monday, 21 January 2008, 18:55 GMT
Group B results

By Ben Wyatt

Salomon Kalou celebrates his goal
Kalou celebrates after slaloming through the Nigerian defence
Ivory Coast secured a major victory against fellow favourites Nigeria to take a firm grip in Group B.

Chelsea's Salomon Kalou scored the only goal of the game when he left three Nigerian defenders standing to shoot home from 15 yards after 66 minutes.

Despite an abundance of talent in the Super Eagles' squad, Nigeria's best chances fell to Obafemi Martins.

But he shot straight at the goalkeeper in the first half, while Taye Taiwo crashed a free-kick against the bar.

The first match in Sekondi hosted one of the most-anticipated games of the tournament, with two heavyweights of African football meeting in a repeat of the 2006 Africa Cup of Nations semi-final.

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 then 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 Nigeria, though his efforts were reduced to speculative shots from distance.

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 Gohouri.

The game remained goalless after 45 minutes with tight defending from the likes of Nigeria's Joseph Yobo and Ivory Coast's Kolo Toure influencing matters.

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.

And fresh from the break it was the Super Eagles who created some good moves, with Kanu dropping short to thread the play.

A robust challenge ended such creativity, with Onyekachi Okonkwo needed to replace an injured Kanu, who was stretchered off the pitch.

The sparring continued until a flash of individual brilliance from 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.

And the Nigerian boss tried a final roll of the dice, replacing Martins with Lazio's Ayodele Makinwa, but his team remained flat and unable to respond.

Nigeria: Ejide, Taiwo, Apam, Martins (Makinwa 79), Yobo, Olofinjana, Obi, Shittu, Yakubu, Utaka (Odemwingie 73), Kanu (Okonkwo 56).
Subs Not Used: Enyeama, Aiyenugbu, Afolabi, Emeghara, Eromoigbe, Etuhu, Nwaneri, Obinna, Uche.

Booked: Olofinjana, Martins.

Ivory Coast: Barry, Boka, Meite, Toure, Eboue, Zokora, Toure Yaya, Gohouri (Keita 46), Dindane, Kalou, Drogba (Bakari Kone 85).
Subs Not Used: Tiassa Kone, Loboue, Djakpa, Fae, Gervinho, Arouna Kone, Romaric, Sanogo, Tiene, Zoro.

Booked: Gohouri, Boka.

Goals: Kalou 66.

Att: 20,000

Ref: M Benouzza (Algeria).

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