|Drogba makes his return to international football for the first time since last year's World Cup [AFP]
Cote d'Ivoire star Didier Drogba made a winning return to international football as Les Elephants beat Mali 1-0 in a friendly in France on Tuesday.
Didier Ya Konan's third-minute goal, and first international goal, won the game for Cote d'Ivoire, who were celebrating the return of Drogba for the first time since last year's World Cup after he requested time away from the international game.
Ya Konan earned a starting place in Francois Zahoui's team after an impressive tally of 10 goals in 19 Bundesliga games, but was one of two players who later left the pitch on a stretcher as a result of some violent tackling.
Zahoui chose an ambitious attacking formation with Ya Konan and Gervinho playing off Drogba as the central striker.
Drogba almost got his 46th international goal when he volleyed narrowly over from inside the penalty area in the 35th minute.
Drogba's Chelsea teammate Salomon Kalou almost made it 2-0 early in the second half when he weaved past three players but clipped his shot just over from 10 yards out.
Mali missed a penalty in the second half.
The game had to be briefly stopped 12 minutes from the end when a fight broke out among the players. The match was then brought to a close two minutes early when the lights went out at the stadium in Valence.
Drogba made the relatively short trip from London to southeast France after last playing for his country in a 3-0 win over North Korea in the group stage in South Africa last year under former coach Sven-Goran Eriksson.
Zahoui included Kolo and Yaya Toure of Manchester City and Emmanuel Eboue of Arsenal in a strong squad.
Former Real Madrid midfielder Mahamadou Diarra, now with Monaco, made his 61st appearance for Mali.
The sides were using the match to prepare for next month's resumption of the qualifiers for the 2012 African Nations Cup.
Tuesday also marked the start of two friendly tournaments.
In the Cyprus event, the hosts lost 2-0 to Sweden and Ukraine beat Romania 4-2 in a penalty shootout.
The contest between the British Isles nations, without England, started with Ireland beating Wales 3-0.