Argentina win a thriller

10 June 2006 10:12
Argentina made a winning start to the Group of Death by beating Ivory Coast 2-1 in an entertaining match of high quality in Hamburg but the Elephants showed that they have enough quality to bounce back and reach the last 16. The outstanding Juan Riquelme set up both goals for the Argentinians in the first half with Hernan Crespo and Javier Saviola netting but the South Americans were made to sweat in the closing stages when Didier Drogba pulled a goal back for the Africans. In the best game of the tournament so far, Argentina appeared to have broken the deadlock in the 15th minute when Roberto Ayala's header was fumbled by Jean-Jacques Tizie and appeared to have crossed the line before the keeper recovered - but the referee waved play on. Ivory Coast had started brightly though with Drogba a constant threat while Kanga Akale's surging runs always caused danger. However, Jose Pekerman's side weathered the storm and took the lead in the 24th minute. Riquelme's curling free-kick caused chaos in the Elephants defence and the ball fell kindly to Crespo who gleefully guided his shot into the net. Ivory Coast hit back well but they found themselves two goals behind seven minutes before the interval when Riquelme played a slide-rule pass through to Saviola who beat the offside trap and confidently slotted his shot past Tizie. After such a thrilling first period the second 45 minutes were comparatively tame as Argentina tried to kill the game. The Africans refused to give up though as, led by the inspiring Drogba, they kept on plugging away. Argentina appeared to have done enough to seal a comfortable win and they appear to be a solid outfit with no obvious weak links - and they still have Lionel Messi and Carlos Tevez to call on. But, with nine minutes left, they conceded a goal when Drogba turned smartly inside the area and fired a stinging left-foot shot past Roberto Abbondanzieri. However, despite Drogba's best efforts, Argentina hung on to secure an important win and put the pressure on Holland and Serbia & Montenegro who meet in Leipzig on Sunday.

Source: ESA