Gervinho saves the day for Ivory Coast

Updated 22 January 2013
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Gervinho saves the day for Ivory Coast

RUSTENBURG, South Africa: Favorites Ivory Coast were made to sweat but eventually overcame enterprising Group D ‘lightweights’ Togo 2-1 to get their Africa Cup of Nations campaign off on the right note yesterday.
Premier League stars Yaya Toure and Gervinho got the goals for the continent’s top-ranked team with Jonathan Ayite scoring for Togo, back in the competition after the deadly Cabinda attack before the 2010 finals in Angola.
Despite all the pre-competition focus on Didier Drogba making his Cup swansong, the veteran China-based striker went largely AWOL throughout the match and was taken off with quarter of an hour to go.
Ivory Coast’s starting XI for the Group D opener featured three Premier League stars — Manchester City’s Toure brothers Kolo and Yaya and Gervinho of Arsenal, with Newcastle’s Cheik Tiote on the bench.
A fourth taking a busman’s holiday from the British winter to help his national cause was Togo’s talismanic Tottenham striker Emmanuel Adebayor, who decided to turn up after a protracted ‘will he won’t he play’ saga.
The match kicked off before barely a couple of thousand fans at the 42,000-capacity Royal Bafokeng stadium — a small crowd was only to be expected perhaps in Rustenburg, Afrikaans for ‘city of sleep’.
Adebayor almost nicked a goal in the opening seconds, when an Ivory Coast defensive blunder presented him with the ball bang smack in front of goal, but dithering undid him and keeper Boubacar Barry cleared.
On eight minutes Gervinho proved too quick for his marker down the right flank, his cross finding Yaya Toure who struck first time, the ball zinging through the Togolese defense, taking a deflection en route, and into the back of Kossi Agassa’s net.
The midfielder has now scored at every one of the last four Nations Cups.
Despite the gulf in class — they are ranked a yawning 63 rungs below the Ivorians — Togo were making frequent incursions into Elephant territory, with Ayite and Serge Akakpo proving particularly meddlesome.
Ivory Coast, beaten by Zambia on penalties for the title in 2012, seemed happy to sit on their lead, although Yaya Toure almost got a second when his shot ricocheted off the near upright. Then, in the second minute of stoppage time, Togo achieved something that no team had accomplished throughout the entire tournament last year — namely score against Drogba and company.
They drew level when Ayite knocked in Serge Akakpo’s corner from the left — the first goal Barry has conceded in 613 minutes of CAN action.
Togo had the ball in the back of the net for a second time approaching the hour mark off a corner but Cameroon referee Alioum Neant disallowed it, ordering the kick to be retaken as they had taken it too early.
Gervinho and Yaya Toure teamed up neatly again with 15 minutes left, Toure’s shot denied by Agassa’s superb reflex save.
Then, with two minutes left, Gervinho saved Ivory Coast’s blushes, this time Yaya Toure turning provider with the free-kick which the Arsenal man swept past Agassa.

Nigeria held

A last-gasp goal from substitute Alain Traore gave Burkina Faso a surprising 1-1 draw against 10-man Nigeria on Monday night.
Two-time champion Nigeria had controlled the Group C game from the 23rd minute, when Spartak Moscow striker Emmanuel Emenike poked home a clever back-heel volley from Brown Ideye, but had victory nicked from under its nose in the final play of the game.
Nigeria defender Efe Ambrose was sent off in the 74th minute for a second yellow card, but Burkina Faso lacked the creativity to break its opponent down until Traore capitalized on a slip by defender Godfrey Oboabona in the fourth minute of stoppage time.
Victor Moses was left out by Nigeria coach Stephen Keshi because of a slight hamstring strain, but his Chelsea teammate John Obi Mikel put in a solid performance and was named man of the match.
Aside from Traore’s unexpected strike, which came as Nigeria sat back and waited for the final whistle, only striker Moumouni Dagano was able to trouble Nigeria goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama.


But Nigeria were ultimately penalized for a lack of ambition after taking the lead, creating just one good chance in the second half when substitute Ikechukwu Uche cut inside from the left wing and blazed over the crossbar.
The Super Eagles then paid when Oboabona failed to make contact with an attempted clearance and Traore side footed home.
The result leaves all four teams in Group C with a point after Zambia was held to a 1-1 draw with Ethiopia in the earlier game.


Liverpool's Andrew Robertson ready for Roma Champions League test

Updated 23 April 2018
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Liverpool's Andrew Robertson ready for Roma Champions League test

  • Young Scottish star was very impressive during Liverpool's 5-1 aggregate destruction of Man City in last-eight clash.
  • Robertson refuses to take Roma lightly after their shock victory over Barcelona in the last round.

LIVERPOOL: With a desire stoked in the stands of Parkhead, Andrew Robertson is now fired up to fulfil a childhood dream.
While following the fortunes of Celtic, the defender’s first Champions League final memory was when Zinedine Zidane volleyed Real Madrid to success in 2002 as the contest was staged in Robertson’s home city of Glasgow. He was just eight years old.
While Robertson was deemed too small to play for his boyhood idols, released at 15 with a future uncertain, he has grown to prove his worth on Europe’s biggest club stage with Liverpool.
Now, with a semifinal encounter against AS Roma after beating Premier League champions Manchester City in the last eight, he wants to emulate those Reds heroes who lifted the trophy five times before.
“I was a big Celtic fan growing up and my heroes were Henrik Larsson and Co,” Robertson told Arab News ahead of tonight’s first-leg clash 
at Anfield.
“But these heroes who have won the European Cup and Champions League for Liverpool, you have to look up to them — and we want to emulate them and hopefully get a winner’s medal too.
“The club’s won it five times and the history of the club has always been this, the Champions League, where the fans create a special atmosphere and the club challenges for the trophy. It would be unbelievable to be a part of that history.
“This is the highlight for me so far and an incredible feeling, but it just makes you hungry for more. I don’t want it to end.
“As a kid, you sit back and watch how great it would be to play in this competition, let alone in the final.
“I always used to go to Celtic and we didn’t progress very far in the Champions League, but the occasions at Parkhead were always unbelievable.
“The fans at Celtic are incredible, world renowned, but Anfield was unbelievable against Man City and we have another chance for them to create that same atmosphere and hopefully we can put in another great performance.”
Having beaten Pep Guardiola’s City so convincingly, 5-1 over two gripping games, Liverpool will start favorites against Roma.
That is despite the Italians upsetting Barcelona in the previous round with an epic 3-0 win in the second leg after a 4-1 loss at the Nou Camp.
But Robertson will take nothing for granted against a Roma side who last reached the final in 1984 where they were beaten by Liverpool in a penalty shootout at their Stadio Olimpico home.
“Barca are an unbelievable team,” added the Scotland left-back, 24. “But let’s not kid ourselves. For Roma to score three goals against Barcelona, that’s special.
“They’ve been unbelievable this season too in the Champions League and deserve to be in the semifinals. It will definitely not be an easy game.
“But once you get to the semis, the fear of who you are playing has gone because you know how good the teams are.
“It’s like you look forward to the possibility of playing in the final, that’s what drives you forward. We will have fire in our bellies because we are so close to getting there.”
Jurgen Klopp’s men will no doubt be looking to Mohamed Salah to conjure more magic against the club he left in the summer for £36.9 million ($51.5 million).
But Robertson insisted Liverpool are no one-man team and the Egyptian, crowned PFA Player of the Year on Sunday night after scoring 41 goals in an unforgettable campaign, epitomizes a team united and ambitious in their quest for glory.
“He’s just unbelievable,” said Robertson of the frontman.
“In the first half (of the second leg) against Man City we struggled to get him in the game and he wasn’t quite at it. But the second half he was different class and pops up with a goal to help us win it. That’s what he does.
“His goals have been incredible and long may that continue. He’s a great guy, so humble, and for someone who has done so much this season he’s so down to Earth.
“That’s credit to our squad because we don’t let anyone get ahead of themselves.
“Mo is no different, he’s a lovely person and stands for what we are as a team.”

 

HEART OF GOLD

Five years ago Andrew Robertson was playing in the fourth tier of Scottish football with Queen’s Park and earning extra money by selling concert tickets in the corporate offices at Hampden Park.
Last summer he suffered relegation from the Premier League with Hull City before Liverpool signed him for £10 million ($13.9 million).
In a career fraught with setbacks and hardships, he has been grateful, supporting foodbanks that help those in need.
“It’s all about giving something back to the less fortunate,” said Robertson.
“I’m in a fortunate position where I do a job I love and get paid well and it’s nice to give something back, especially in my hometown. I’ll always do that.
“It’s been a great journey for me in my career, and I’ve enjoyed every minute. But I don’t forget where I came from. Maybe it is rare, but a lot more people are doing it now and I hope even more will.”