IVORY Coast marched into the final of the 28th edition of the Orange Africa Cup of Nations after edging Mali 1-0 at Stade de l ’Amities in Libreville. On a day when the Elephants started the match as the remaining favourites after Ghana fell to Zambia any fears of a repeat giant-killing act were quickly dispelled by a dominant Ivorian side from first whistle. The Elephants saw efforts from Didier Drogba , Yaya Toure and Salomon Kalou come of the post in a first half they controlled restricting Mali to occasional attacks. The Mali goal was under threat and goalkeeper Soumaila Diakite was a busy man making saves or thanking his goal posts as Ivorians ran the show. Mali managed to weather the onslaught midway through the first half and went close when Tidiane Cheick Diabate shot was punched back into play by Barry in Ivorian goal only to fall to Mustapha Yatabare but the striker missed from the rebound. Mali ‘s defence led by captain Cedric Kante who made some timely tackles to keep the Ivorians at bay was soon involved in moves that had Mali testing the opposition. Seydou Keita’s presence grew in the midfield as he saw more of the ball but Ivorians remained a threat.
Right on the stroke of half time Gervinho beat Ousmane Berthe by the halfway line on the right flank and raced towards goal and managed to beat Diakite with a low shot into the goalkeeper’s bottom right hand corner for the opening goal. It was Gervinho’s first goal of the tournament.
The second half saw both sides up the tempo but Ivorians created most of the chances again with Drogba going close with a header and was stopped by goalkeeper after running away from Kante. Mali’s Yatabare received a well crafted ball from Keita on the edge of the box but his effort just sailed over the bar as Mali searched for the equalizer. The game opened up with chances at both ends but Diakite remained the busier of the two keepers, saving from Gervinho and Kalou as the game drew to an end.
The Ivorians could have added to the score line but in the end Gervinho’s goal was enough to take them to the final on Sunday in Libreville against Chipolopolo of Zambia, while Mali will meet Ghana again for third and fourth place match in Malabo on Saturday.