Ivorians thrash Benin, lose Toure

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The battle between The Elephants and The Squirrels was as miss-matched as one would expect, although the Benin side did fight for all their worth and grabbed a consolation goal near the end.

Aruna Dindane should have opened the scoring on 11 minutes when Didier Drogba’s excellent cross from the left found him unmarked five yards out, but he could only head against the post and the danger was cleared.

Salomon Kalou had a great chance on 15 minutes, but fired wide when well placed. And Kalou was then booked for an innocuous challenge on 32 minutes and will miss the Ivorians final Group B game against Mali on January 29, a fate that later befell his teammate Abdoulaye Meite.

Drogba was uncharacteristically wasteful just past the half-hour mark when he was fed the ball on the six yard box with time and space, but let leash with a wild fling of the boot that saw the ball go high over the bar.

But the Chelsea striker made up for it on 39 minutes when Yaya Toure laid a beautiful ball into the feet of the onrushing Ivorian, who coolly beat goalkeeper Rachad Chitou to open the score.

Seidath Tchomogo might have leveled matters just a minute later, but his header flashed just wide of the upright.

And it was 2-0 on 43 minutes when Kolo Toure brilliantly set up his younger brother Yaya with a run along the byline and cross for the unmarked Barcelona midfielder, who had the easiest of tap-ins.

There was still time in injury time of the first half for Dindane to create space for himself, but shoot wide. At the other end, Oumar Tchomogo was left unmarked on the edge of the area, but his goal-bound shot was saved Boubacar Barry.

The Ivorians then lost Kolo Toure to a groin injury just before the break, the extent of which could mean he is out for the rest of the tournament. He was replaced by Steve Gohouri.

Kader Keita made the score 3-0 seven minutes after halftime when a mistake by Damien Chrystosome, who lost possession to the Ivorian, gave him a clear run on goal.

Dindane was denied a fourth by a miracle save from Chitou as the goalkeeper blocked his bullet header, but he got his revenge on 62 minutes with another header from an excellent Drogba flick-cross.

New Ivorian wonderkid Yao Gervinho got his first taste of Nations Cup football when he came on for Keite, and the 20-year-old forward, who plays for Le Mans in Ligue 1, acquitted himself well.

Barry made a brilliant save from Oumar Tchomogo, palming his powerful shot around the post, while Chitou did likewise from Gervinho.

Benin finally got the consolation goal their hard work deserved when Romauld Boco crossed for Razak Omotoyossi to head home, but it was too little, too late as the Ivory Coast notched another impressive win to cement their place as one of the major contenders for the title.

Ivory Coast 4 (Drogba 39 Y Toure 43 Keita 52 Dindane 62)

Benin 1 (Omotoyossi 89)

Yellow cards: Salomon Kalou, Abdoulaye Meite, Yao Gervinho); Damien Chrystosome, Stephane Sessegnon

Ivory Coast: 1-Boubacar Barry, 3-Arthur Boka, 21-Emmanuel Eboue, 12-Abdoulaye Meite, 4-Kolo Toure (Steve Gohouri 45), 19-Gneri Yaya Toure, 5-Didier Zokora, 15-Aruna Dindane, 11-Didier Drogba (2-Boubacar Sanogo 68), 8-Salomon Kalou, 18-Abdelkader Keita (10-Yao Gervinho 76)

Benin: 1-Rachad Chitou, 3-Abdul Adenon, 15-Anicet Adjamossi, 5-Damien Chrystosome (13-Noel Seka 69), 14-Alain Gaspoz (11-Muri Ogunbiyi 51), 19-Jocelyn Ahoueya, 7-Romauld Boco, 17-Stephane Sessegnon, 18-Seidath Tchomogo (9-Abou Maiga 59), 8-Razak Omotoyossi, 10-Oumar Tchomogo