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Elephants held by Burkina Faso

CABINDA, January 12- A shock-filled start to the Africa Cup of Nations continued on Monday as title favourites Ivory Coast were held 0-0 by Burkina Faso in the opening Group B match.Hosts Angola sensationally surrendered a four-goal lead when drawing with Mali in the tournament opener on Sunday and 24 hours later Malawi rocked 2010 World Cup qualifiers Algeria 3-0 in another Group A clash.

An Ivorian team featuring Europe-based stars like Kolo Toure, younger brother Yaya and Didier Drogba dominated possession throughout, but created few clearcut chances and looked far from potential champions.

Burkina Faso set out a defensive stall and contained their opponents with relative comfort to keep alive hopes of finishing among the top two in a mini-league completed by Ghana and qualifying for the quarter-finals.

Players stood silently before the kick-off to honour two Togolese fatalities of an ambush in this restive enclave last Friday while police, soldiers and special forces cast a ring of steel around a complex housing the teams.

Togo, whose delegation flew home on Sunday, were officially disqualified from the tournament when they failed to appear for an 1830GMT fixture against Ghana, scheduled to be the second half of a Cabinda double-header.

Ivory Coast dominated the first half before a sparse crowd at the new 20,000-seat Chiazi Stadium with virtually the entire Burkina Faso team retreating behind the ball at the slightest hint of danger.

The respect the Stallions accorded the Elephants in this west African derby was understandable after losing 3-2 at home and 5-0 away when the neighbours clashed in qualifiers for this tournament.

English Premiership duo Drogba of Chelsea and Emmanuel Eboue of Arsenal had penalty appeals rejected by the Tunisian referee in the stamina-sapping conditions.

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There were also a couple of scares for Burkinabe goalkeeper Daouda Diakate, who had the humiliating experience of retrieving the ball from his net five times in Abidjan last September.

The Cairo-based custodian spilled a hard, long-range attempt from midfielder Didier Zokora and raced off his line to clutch the ball as Bakari Kone dashed forward.

Cheik Tiote adopted a more subtle approach to try and break the deadlock and it almost paid off as his gentle, curled shot ended just millimetres off target.

Kone should have put the Elephants ahead when a deep cross was played into his path, but failed to get sufficient power into his shot and a Diakate parry rescued the Stallions.

Ivory Coast resembled five-time World Cup winners Brazil at times as they retained possession while effortlessly stroking the ball about, but the killer instinct was missing and half-time arrived without a goal

The Burkinabe displayed more adventure in the second half but were lucky to survive midway through when a superb run by Kouassi ‘Gervinho’ Yao created a golden chance for Kone who shot timidly wide.

Bosnian coach Vahid Halilhodzic was growing restless on the Ivorian bench and opted to introduce Salomon Kalou, a Chelsea team-mate of Drogba, as the final 15 minutes began.

Charles Kabore squandered a late half chance in a rare Burkinabe attack before a goalmouth collision between two Ivorians trying to snatch a stoppage-time winner summed up a dismal evening for the 1992 champions.

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