African Cup of Nations - Ivory Coast end co-hosts' dreams
Ivory Coast made it through to the last four of the African Cup of Nations following a comfortable 3-0 victory over co-hosts Equatorial Guinea in Malabo.
Didier Drogba missed a penalty before capitalising on a Rui Da Gracia mistake to break and put the Elephants into the lead ten minutes before the interval.
The Chelsea man then got his second of the game and third of the tournament with a tremendous header before Yaya Toure's free-kick made sure of victory with a little under ten minutes remaining.
Ivory Coast, the only side yet to concede in this year’s competition and the pre-tournament favourites, came into the match with the co-hosts Equatorial Guinea having made a sweeping nine changes for their final group game against Angola as they returned to full strength against the National Lightning, who were in the knockout stages at the first time of asking.
Equatorial Guinea, ranked 151st in the world, were rank outsiders at the start of the tournament and already had exceeded all expectations with victory over Senegal in the group stages but were up against a different calibre of opponent in the shape of Ivory Coast.
The co-hosts did, however, contain the Elephants for long periods of the first half with the pre-tournament favourites reduced to shots from distance during the early exchanges but as the half progressed the influence of the Elephants' midfield grew.
First, Max Gradel fired over when he really should have opened the scoring before he found Didier Zakora's run with a clever through ball only for the Trabzonspor player to be hauled down in the box.
Drogba stepped up but his effort was pushed around the post by Emmanuel Danilo Clementino Silva to ensure the game remained scoreless.
That miss appeared to galvanise the Elephants and their first half dominance was rewarded when Drogba capitalised on a misplaced pass from Rui Da Gracia to race clear, cut back inside and fire past Danilo.
The co-hosts response was impressive with Kily Álvarez and Iban Iyanga Travieso particularly bright - the latter drew a fine save from Boubacar Barry with a little over five minutes of the half remaining.
The second half played out as much of the tournament thus far has with the Elephants not playing particularly well but managing to ease to a win; while for all their industry Equatorial Guinea struggled to fashion much in the way of clear-cut chances.
Despite their inability to put any meaningful pressure on Ivory Coast's defence the co-hosts were still very much in the tie when Gervinho was fouled following another marauding run but after Drogba headed Yaya Toure's whipped cross from the resulting free-kick past Danilo there seemed little way back for the co-hosts.
Credit to the Equatoguineans, they toiled right to the end but it was of little surprise when Yaya Toure furthered the Elephants' advantage with a late free-kick.
Rui almost made amends for the earlier indiscretion that had led to Drogba's opener but his dipping, swerving effort from all of thirty-five yards whistled past the wrong side of the post in the dying moments.