In the second round of African Nations Cup group fixtures, we’ve seen Chelsea get off the mark in front of goal, two players qualify for the knockout stages and an injury worry for another. It’s been a busy few days in Angola, so let’s catch up.
We ended part one on the eve of the Ivory Coast vs Ghana fixture in Group B, a fixture which would potentially put Didier Drogba and Salomon Kalou up against Michael Essien, and one of great importance for the Elephants. Anything less than a win would leave their fate out of their hands, this being the last of their group fixtures after Togo’s withdrawal. Drogba and Kalou duly started, with the former Feyenoord forward replacing Bakari Kone in Vahid Halilhodzic’s line-up, but Essien was on the bench for the Black Stars, having not fully recovered from the knee injury which has kept him out of Chelsea action since December.
Kalou lined up in a three-man attacking midfield with Siaka Tiene and Gervinho, with Drogba as a lone striker, and they began in great style, creating a number of chances to worry the Ghanaian defence. It was Kalou who was heavily involved in the opening goal midway through the first half, playing a one-two with Gervinho allowing the Lille forward to put the ball into the back of the net with Richard Kingson left hopeless. Behind at half time, Ghana coach Rajevac introduced Essien as captain at half time and his influence was tangible as they began to creep back into the match, aided by Emmanuel Eboué’s red card for a terrible tackle on Agyemang Opoku.
They were unable to make their good spell count though, and a wonderful Tiene free kick gave the Ivorians daylight. They put the game to bed in stoppage time when Drogba netted his first of the competition with a far post header after good work from Abdul Kader Keita, and sealed their place in the Quarter Finals. Ghana scored a stoppage time penalty consolation but now must beat Burkina Faso in Cabinda on Tuesday to join their West African counterparts. A moment of concern flashed midway through the second half when Essien overstretched in a challenge with Drogba and appeared to be seriously hurt, but he was able to continue. Unfortunately, he suffered another knee injury in training over the weekend and whilst he awaits results on a scan, he will miss the group decider.
That leaves John Obi Mikel and Nigeria, who after a disappointing opening loss to Egypt, bounced back to beat Benin in Group C on Saturday afternoon. A solitary goal, courtesy of Yakubu from the penalty spot, was enough to take the three points. Mikel completed a quiet ninety minutes and will start against Mozambique knowing the Super Eagles merely need to avoid defeat to join fellow Group C team Egypt in the knockout stages.
Check back here on CFCnet after the weekend for a recap on the second round of group fixtures, and throughout the month for as long as there’s a Chelsea interest in Angola. Don’t forget that the Official Chelsea FC Website also has an African Cup of Nations Micro-site, which keeps you abreast of everything going on in Angola for Chelsea’s African quartet. You can view it here: