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Spirited Ivory Coast hold Portugal to a draw

Port Elizabeth: A spirited
Ivory Coast ran the Portugal defence ragged before settling
for a goalless draw against the 2006 semi-finalists in their
Group G match of the FIFA World Cup here on Tuesday.

In a match that saw Portugal captain Cristiano Ronaldo
squandering perhaps the easiest chance of the encounter and
talismanic Ivory Coast striker Didier Drogba making a late
appearance with his arm in a protective cast, the African team
dominated much of the proceedings even though they lacked the
finish to break the stalemate.

Ivory Coast coach Sven-Goran Eriksson finally unleashed
Drogba in the 66th minute in place of Salomon Kalou but the
all-important goal remained elusive at the Nelson Mandela Bay
Stadium.

The match saw some tooth-and-nail battle in the initial
minutes when both the teams tried to make early inroads.

Although each of them came close to secure the early
lead once during the keenly-contested first half, none of them
could really break the stalemate.

Portugal got the best opportunity to surge ahead in the
11th minute when skipper Ronaldo was left unmarked by the
Ivory Coast defenders but the Real Madrid star`s powerful
strike from 25-meter closely missed the left post.

In the return attack, Ivory Coast organised a swift move
but Cheick Tiote`s shot went over the bar in the 17th minute.

There was some heated moment as well and referee Jorge
Larrionda showed yellow card to defender Guy Demel for a foul
on Ronaldo, who also got a caution due to his on-field
exchange of words with Demel.

Drogba, who is recovering from a right-arm injury
suffered in a World Cup warm-up match, did not play in the
first 45 minutes with defender Kolo Toure leading Ivory Coast,
the last of the six countries to qualify for the FIFA World
Cup finals.

The battle only intensified after the change of sides and
with Drogba`s entry, the Ivory Coast forwardline intruded into
the opponent citadel on a number of occasions but Portugal
defenders stood firm to deny them any success.

It started drizzling towards the end and Portugal got a
couple of free-kicks but their shots could hardly test the
opponent custodian`s skill.

During the injury time, Ivory Coast strikers, led by
Drogba, put up last-ditch efforts to break the deadlock.

However, the Portugal defenders stood between them and a
goal and Drogba missed a chance when he, instead of taking a
shot himself with just the goalkeeper to beat, passed the ball
even though none of his teammates were in position.

Bureau Report

From Zee News

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