World Cup Qualifying Play-Off: Ivory Coast 3 Senegal 1
Ivory Coast have one foot in next year’s FIFA World Cup in Brazil after beating Senegal 3-1 in the play-off first leg of the 2014 FIFA World Cup qualifiers on Saturday night at the National Stadium Abidjan in Ivory Coast.
The Elephants opened the scoring as early as the fourth minute via a penalty kick by Didier Drogba before Gervinho doubled the lead eight minutes later. The second-half saw the home side three goals ahead after Solomon Kalou scored early in the half while Papiss Demba Cisse scored a crucial away goal for the Lions of Teranga in stoppage time.
Both teams will meet again on the 16th of November for the second leg in Casablanca in Senegal where the winner will join four other African counties to go to Brazil for next year’s World Cup showpiece.
Ivory Coast coach Sabri Lamouchi played Drogba up front as a lone striker while the visitors relied on England-based striker Cisse up front alongside Moussa Sow.
The match started in a good momentum when Kalou found Gervinho on the left hand side and the Italy-based midfielder was brought down by Chekhou Kouyate just inside the area in the fourth minute. Drogba stepped up and sent goalkeeper the wrong way from the spot and put Ivory Coast ahead.
When Senegal looked to gain their confidence back some while after the goal, the home side doubled their lead after 13 minutes when Gervinho connected with a clever through pass from Kalou before his shot was deflected into the net by Lamine L Sane to leave Bouna Coundoul wrong-footed in goal.
The visitors almost pulled one back after 21 minutes when Sow showed some great technique on the left hand side to beat defender Arthur Boka but his low cross was cut short by a sliding clearance from Geoffroy Serey.
Two minutes later, Dame Ndoye shot straight at Aboubakar Barry as the Lions of Teranga searched for the goal that would bring them back in game. The 2002 World Cup participants lacked finishing in the final third and never looked like scoring at the break.
The last chance of the half fell to Yaya Toure when he was picked by Gervinho inside the area but the Manchester City midfielder ballooned his first-time shot over the bar from 12-yards-out as the Elephants took their comfortable lead to the break.
The second-half startedjust like the opening half with another quick goal. Kalou beat the offside trap and connected with Gervinho’s pass and raced to goal before coolly beating an onrushing Coundoul with a low shot to make the score 3-0 to the hosts just four minutes after the break.
The home side looked down but not out when they came close to scoring in the 59th minute when Cisse forced a great save from Barry with a smart header. Both sides then made couple of substitutions midway through the second-half to speed up the tempo of the game.
Ivory Coast almost made their fans cheer with a fourth goal in 85th minute when Yaya Toure’s shot from the edge of the area went a whisker wide of Coundoul’s right hand post.
While it looked like Ivory Coast will take their 3-0 lead to the second leg, Cisse capitalised from Souleman Bamba's misclearance in the fifth minute of stoppage time and shot past Barry in goal who got a touch to the ball but could not keep it out as the match ended 3-1 to Ivory Coast.
Ivory Coast line-up: Barry, Alain Aurier, Zokora, Bamba, Boka, Tiote, Serey, Toure, Gervinho (Gradel 85th), Kalou (Traore 54th), Drogba (Gbohouo 76th)
Senegal line-up: Coundoul, Gassama, Sane, Kouyate, Souare, Diame, Gueye, Ndiaye (Mane 45th), Ndoye , Sow (Sissokho 78th), Demba Cisse.