Drogba double powers Cote d’Ivoire to victory in Accra
The Chelsea hit-man, scored in each half to cancel Seidah Tchomogo’s opener in the Group H encounter which was shifted to Accra due to the post-election troubles in Cote d’Ivoire.
With their third successive victory in the qualifying series, the Elephants remain in a good stead to finish as winners of the group and a ticket to the 28th edition of the continental showpiece soccer event.
Despite playing away from home, the Ivorians were cheered on by an enthusiastic crowd, who left few patches in the 40,000-capacity stadium.
The huge attendance would be the envy of premier league side, Accra Hearts of Oak, who can only boast of such a crowd in the derby clash with archrivals Asante Kotoko.
The game started on a high note and Benin pulled the first plug with Tchomogo scoring the opener on 13 minutes with a long drive that Ivorian goalie Daniel Yeboah fumbled in his response.
The Elephants, who finished the game with 10 men after Guy Demel was sent-off for a second bookable offence, later in the game struggled in search of their rhythm with captain Drogba, Salomon Kalou and pacy winger Yao Kouassi Gervais marked out by the Beninois.
Gervais occasionally swapped positions with Kalou from left to right but the Benin defence remained impregnable.
On the stroke of half time, Drogba drew parity with a curling shot from a Gervais pass that beat Benin goalie Bemenou Guillaume.
Cote d’Ivoire coach Francois Zahoui brought on Abdoulkader Keita and Coulibaly Kafumba for Emmanuel Eboue and Ndri Romaric upon resumption of the second half and their presence tilted the game in their favour.
Keita’s surging runs upfront posed a lot of troubles to the Benin defence and it was only a matter of time that the second goal would come.
The Beninois midfield marshaled by Captain Stephane Sessegnon of Sunderland fame crumbled and was constantly pinned to their half by the star-studded Ivorians.
On 75 minutes, Drogba headed in the second goal from Keita cross within the Benin penalty area.
Despite their numerical disadvantage, the Ivorians remained in control and coasted to victory.
Earlier, the Olympic team of Cote d’Ivoire defeated their Liberian counterparts 4-0 in a London 2012 Olympic Games qualifier, which was also played at the Accra stadium.
Striker Deble Serge scored a brace with other strikes from Meite Yancoub and Lacina Traore.