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African Cup: Ivory Coast beats Tunisia to reach second round

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Associated Press
1/26/2013 12:47:45 PM
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RUSTENBURG, South Africa -- Ivory Coast moved closer to the second round at the African Cup of Nations by beating Tunisia 3-0 despite captain Didier Drogba being stuck on the bench for most of Saturday's match.

Gervinho opened the scoring after a one-two combination with Lacina Traore in the 21st minute, Yaya Toure doubled the lead with a powerful shot in the 87th and substitute Didier Ya Konan sealed the victory from inside the area in the 90th.

Drogba, who had a lacklustre performance in the team's opener, came on in the 67th but created few opportunities.

The win may be enough to secure the Elephants a spot in the quarterfinals, depending on the result of the match between Algeria and Togo later Saturday. The Elephants have six points in Group D, while Tunisia stayed with three. Algeria and Togo were yet to win points.

Ivory Coast will close against Algeria, and Tunisia will face Togo.

Drogba, the biggest star entering the tournament, was surprisingly absent in the Ivory Coast lineup. He didn't appear injured and participated in warmup drills, but was not included by coach Sabri Lamouchi among the starters. He was replaced by Solomon Kalou.

Drogba was quiet in the team's opening match, being substituted in the 74th minute. Didier Zokora was named the captain against Tunisia.

Gervinho scored his second goal of the tournament after a corner on the left side. He picked up the ball just inside the penalty area and fed it to Traore, who quickly passed it back to him as he ran toward the goal and fired a shot into the top of the net. He also scored Ivory Coast's late winner in the 2-1 opening win against Togo.

Toure, who also netted in the opener, added to the lead near the end by firing a hard shot inside the far post, and Ya Konan closed the scoring with an easy goal after a pass by Gervinho near the penalty spot.

Kalou had a goal disallowed in the 56th after Gervinho was caught offsides before making a cross. Kalou was replaced in the 80th.

Ivory Coast had struggled against Togo and Lamouchi had said that against Tunisia it would be just as important to see his team play better as it was to get the win.

The Ivorians took control of the match from the start and improved from their disappointing opener. Tunisia barely got near Ivory Coast goalkeeper Boubacar Barry, who against Togo was forced to make several big saves.

Tunisia tried to pressure more in the end and its main opportunity was a volley by Saber Khalifa from near the penalty spot in the 84th, prompting a close-range save by Barry.

In addition to benching Drogba and midfielder Kolo Toure, Lamouchi made three other changes, adding Traore, Ndri Romaric and Tiote to the team.

The Ivorians arrived in South Africa as the tournament favourites thanks to a squad led by Drogba and filled with Europe-based players. The western Africa country hasn't won the continental title since 1992. It was runner-up to Zambia last year in a final that ended in a penalty shootout.

Tunisia also was coming off a last-minute victory in its opener, when it was outplayed during most of the match against Algeria but escaped with a 1-0 victory thanks to a goal in stoppage time.

The team was without leading striker Issam Jemma, who sprained his knee against Algeria and will miss the rest of the tournament.

Yaya Toure (Photo: The Canadian Press)

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(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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