Drogba returns to action for Les Eléphants

2011-02-09 08:56

London – Ivory Coast and Chelsea striker Didier Drogba enjoyed a winning return to international football against Mali yesterday in his first match since last year’s World Cup.

The forward helped to create Didier Ya Konan’s first international goal, which secured a 1-0 victory in the friendly in Valence, France.

Drogba chested down a long ball into the path of Lille striker Gervinho, whose cross from the right was slammed high into the net by Ya Konan after three minutes.

Africa’s top-ranked team, Ghana, beat Togo 4-1 in a friendly in Antwerp, Belgium, giving coach Goran Stevanovic a winning start in the job.

Striker Dominic Adiyiah gave Ghana a 1-0 lead at halftime and after Togo equalized with a penalty three minutes into the second half, Jonathan Mensah, an own goal from Togo defender Akpakpo, and a late strike from Samuel Inkoom sealed the win.

Yesterday also marked the start of two friendly tournaments, each featuring four European countries.

Darron Gibson, Damien Duff and Keith Fahey scored in the second half to give Ireland a 3-0 victory over Wales in a competition featuring the British Isles nations – minus England.

It was Gary Speed’s first match in charge of Wales since being hired in December.

Scotland plays Northern Ireland today and the trophy will be decided by further matches in May.

In the Cyprus tournament, the hosts lost 2-0 to Sweden and Ukraine beat Romania 4-2 in a penalty shootout on the east Mediterranean island.

Tobias Hysen put Sweden in front in the 26th when he headed in a curling Martin Olsson cross at Nicosia’s GSP stadium.

An unmarked Markus Berg added the second on the stroke of halftime when he latched onto a through ball from Pontus Wernblom from 10m.

In Paralimni, two saves by veteran goalkeeper Oleksandr Shovkovskiy in the shootout secured the victory for Euro 2012 co-hosts Ukraine after the match ended 2-2.

Yaroslav Rakitskiy and Artem Milevskiy had given Ukraine a 2-0 lead, but Romania drew level before halftime thanks to goals from striker Dan Alexa.

Today, Sweden and Ukraine meet in Nicosia and Cyprus takes on Romania in Paralimni.

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