Ivory Coast began their 2012 African Cup of Nations campaign with a victory as they beat Sudan 1-0 on Sunday.
Captain Didier Drogba scored his 51st international goal after 39 minutes as Les Elephants failed to take their chances, against a resolute Sudan side determined to frustrate their Group B rivals.
Both Yaya Toure and Gervinho directed headers goalwards but were off-target, and the Arsenal forward should have put his side ahead shortly afterwards following good work from Drogba.
As the half time interval drew nearer, the Nile Crocodiles looked likely to successfully hold off their opponents for the first 45 minutes of the game. Six minutes before referee Rajin Seechurn could blow his whistle, however, the Ivory Coast took the lead; Salomon Kalou crossing from the left for his Chelsea team mate to head home.
Sudan responded well, altering their playing style and going on the offensive to look for an equaliser. Mohamed Bashir fired wide after managing to control Hamid Nazar’s mishit shot, and Ivory Coast ‘keeper Boubacar Barry did well to tip Eltaib Mudather’s fierce strike onto the crossbar.
Nazar and Alaadine Yousef both had further chances for Sudan, while Gervinho tested Elmuez Maghoub with an effort from close range. Mudather was looking threatening, but fired one shot wide and landed roughly after another, an attempted overhead kick from 30 yards out.
Drogba and substitute Max Gradel both wasted late opportunities to increase the margin for the Ivorians, but they held on to secure three points.