Cote d’Ivoire ended the dreams of 2012 Africa Cup of Nations co-hosts Equatorial Guinea with a comprehensive 3-0 win in the teams’ quarterfinal in Malabo on Saturday night.
Didier Drogba scored a goal in each half, while Yaya Toure added the third with a superbly-executed free kick late in the match to put the seal on a fine performance from the Elephants that went some way to justifying their status as tournament favourites.
Cote d’Ivoire started strongly and dominated play from the early minutes but had to wait until midway through the first half to create their first clear scoring chance: a scramble in the penalty area saw the ball fall kindly for Max Gradel, but the attacker lashed his effort high over the crossbar.
On 28 minutes the Elephants’ pressure resulted in a penalty as Ben Konate tripped Didier Zokora in the 18-yard area. Didier Drogba took on the responsibility of the spot kick but saw his effort well saved by goalkeeper Danilo.
Drogba made amends for his error in the 36th minute, capitalising on a poor piece of play by Rui da Gracia, who gave possession to the striker, by sprinting into the box, turning past two defenders before cracking a low shot past the right hand of Danilo: 1-0 to the Elephants.
Boubacar Barry in the Ivory Coast goal had barely been tested by the co-hosts’ attack but he still had one heart-in-mouth moment towards the end of the first half when he missed a searching diagonal ball into his penalty area – luckily for him the ball rebounded off David Alvarez safely into his arms.
Equatorial Guinea started the second half strongly and forced the Elephants onto the back foot, but their pressure never translated into any significant goal scoring opportunities.
Instead, on 69 minutes, Ivory Coast effectively killed off their opponents with a second goal. Yaya Toure floated in a free kick from the right flank and Drogba out-jumped his marker before sending a bullet header into the back of the net.
Twelve minutes later, and with Nzalang Nacional’s spirit clearly broken, Yaya Toure put the cherry on top of a great performance from the Elephants with a brilliantly executed free kick to make it 3-0.
Ivory Coast will face the winner of Sunday’s quarterfinal between Gabon and Mali in the next round.

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