An valuable win: Ivory Coast players celebrate their victory [AFP]

Salomon Kalou scored the game's solitary goal to give the Ivory Coast a 1-0 win over Nigeria in Group B of the African Cup of Nations.

On 66 minutes the Chelsea striker beat three Nigerian defenders before sending a low shot from close range past goalkeeper Austin Ejide.

Monday's game was a repeat of the 2006 semifinals, which Ivory Coast won on Didier Drogba's lone second-half goal.

Obafemi Martins started for Nigeria in an all-English Premier League strikeforce with Nwankwo Kanu, Aiyegbini Yakubu and John Utaka.

The four failed to break the Ivorian defence under Kolo Toure's leadership, however.

Drogba, one of the tournament's biggest stars, led the Ivorian front line alongside Chelsea teammate Kalou.

Nigeria's defence, led by Everton's Joseph Yobo and Watford's Danny Shitu, restricted Ivory Coast to a few chances in the first half, keeping both Drobga and Kalou at bay as the game struggled to live upto its pre-match billing.

Substitute Abdul Keita had a chance to add a goal for Ivory Coast in the 69th but missed the target with a shot from the edge of box, and Toure's 59th-minute shot was denied by Nigerian goalkeeper Austin Ejide.

Kanu, making his fifth appearance in the continental championship, got Nigeria's first chance but shot wide from 20 metres after collecting Yakubu's fourth-minute pass.

Taye Taiwo then sent in a curling free kick in the 15th that hit the bottom of the crossbar.

Martins had an opportunity in the 74th but Ivory Coast goalkeeper Boubacar Barry stopped his close range effort.

Throngs of flag-waving and drum-beating Ivorian fans sang and danced in warm temperatures hours before kickoff.

Sekondi, Ghana's third largest city after Accra and Kumasi, is located less than 160 kilometres from the Ivory Coast boarder.

Nigeria, a two-time African Cup champion, last won the continental title in 1994, two years after Ivory Coast claimed its only title.

Source: Agencies