No joy for Sol Bamba as Ivory Coast draw blank

IVORY COAST were held to a goalless draw in Cabinda last night as Burkina Faso frustrated their more illustrious opponents – including Hibs' Sol Bamba.

The defender played the full 90 minutes of the African Nations Cup Group B game for the Elephants.

They enjoyed most of the possession but Bakary Kone failed to convert three clear chances and Chelsea's Didier Drogba was far from his brilliant best.

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"It was a difficult start. After what happened a few days ago, it was difficult to concentrate," Drogba said.

The shadow of the attack on the Togo team bus by Angolan rebels which left several people dead hangs heavy on the tournament.

There was a minute's silence before kick-off in memory of the Togo assistant coach and the press officer, who were killed in the incident, and security was reinforced around the Chiazi National stadium with police officers searching cars in front of the entrance and a police helicopter with armed officers on board circled above the area.

Ivory Coast got off to a good start and were denied a third-minute penalty when Drogba was brought down in the box. A Kone 20-metre drive then went just over the bar as Burkina Faso struggled.

Yaya Toure's header was cleared off the line by a defender shortly before the half hour with Kone again being denied by Burkina keeper Daouda Diakite on the stroke of half-time.

Marseille striker Kone missed the target ten minutes into the second half with a fine shot from just outside the box. Burkina Faso improved after the break while the pitch and Ivory Coast deteriorated. Moumouni Dagano forced Boubacar Barry to make a spectacular dive with a powerful 40-metre free kick and Kone then missed the open goal after being perfectly set up by Gervinho in the 69th minute. He was immediately replaced by Abdul Kader Keita.

The other team in Group B, Ghana, were left without an opponent after the Togolese pulled out of the tournament.

The Togo players headed home from Angola on Sunday after the tragedy but there were then suggestions they could return and participate in the event.

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"Togo have not taken official steps to come back and play the African Nations Cup," said a Confederation of African Football official. "The referee has received the order to blow the starting whistle and if the Togolese players are not there, they will have lost the match and will be disqualified."

Meanwhile, in Group A, Malawi recorded their first-ever win at an African Nations Cup finals when they stunned Algeria in Luanda.

Russell Mwafulirwa grabbed the opener for the east Africans after 17 minutes, blasting a left-footed shot into an empty net after a goalkeeping blunder by Fawzi Chaouchi. Bryson Kafoteka doubled the lead with a header in the 36th before Davi Banda netted Malawi's third with a low shot in the 49th. Algeria, with Rangers' Madjid Bougherra in their side, struggled to create any meaningful chances.

Despite the loss, Algeria coach Rabah Saadane said it was too early to give up. "We still have a chance to progress but we need to play well against Mali," he said.