Two goals in less than two minutes saw The Ivory Coast come from behind to defeat a tidy Japan side in Group C of the World Cup on Saturday night.
The Blue Samurai opened the scoring through Keisuke Honda in the first half before goals from Wilfried Bony and Gervinho within two minutes of each other sealed an Elephants victory.
In truth, Japan failed to really get going in the opening fifteen minutes, but when they did, it was spectacular. A Shinji Kagawa corner was cleared, but it fell back to Yuto Nagatomo on the Japanese left. He sought out the star of the Blue Samurai, Honda and the AC Milan man finished with aplomb. Taking one touch before rocketing a high drive past a motionless Boubacar Barry to give Japan the lead.
Japan’s quick passing and compact defensive structure stifled Ivory Coast’s game plan until the half hour mark. Seley Die was fouled at the edge of the area, and Arthur Boka brought a yelp out of former Dream Team commentator Gary Bloom as his free kick dipped just over Eiji Kawashima’s crossbar.
As halftime approached, Boka and Honda exchanged efforts, but both were denied by excellent pieces of goalkeeping. Two minutes from the break, goalkeeping was not needed as the heavily involved Boka crossed from the left, finding the head of Salomon Kalou but the OSC Lille forward failed to hit the target.
Just after the break, the Elephants again fluffed their lines in front of goal. Boka fed Gervinho, he slid the ball back to Yaya Toure who found Kalou in space on the right. The former Chelsea man took one touch before fizzing the ball onto the head of Bony, who somehow headed over from close range under little pressure.
Just over 25 minutes from time, retribution was sweet for Bony. Serge Aurier, fresh off a breakout season in France with Toulouse, provided the cross for the Swansea City striker, who headed home from close range.
Just over 90 seconds later, the Ivory Coast were in front. Bony and Aurier were again involved as the former played the latter through down the right and he crossed for AS Roma forward to Gervinho. He beat Kawashima with what was in fact quite a weak header that the keeper may have done better with.
The final 20 minutes was a lot of Japan trying to break down the Elephants with little success and Ivory Coast attempting to hit them on the break. There was no breakthrough though as the Elephants left Recife with three vital Group C points.
Ivory Coast: Boubacar Barry; Serge Aurier, Sol Bamba, Didier Zokora, Arthur Boka (Constant Djakpa 75); Cheik Tiote, Yaya Toure, Serey Die (Didier Drogba 62); Gervinho, Wilfried Bony (Didier Ya Konan 77) , Salomon Kalou.
Subs not used: Sylvain Gbohouo (GK), Sayouba Mande (GK), Jean Daniel Akpa-Akpro, Ousmane Diarrassouba, Kolo Toure, Mathis Bolly, Ismahil Diomande, Max Gradel, Giovanni Sio.
Booked: Bamba (54), Zokora (58)
Japan: Eiji Kawashima; Atsuto Uchida, Maya Yoshida, Masato Morishige, Yuto Nagatomo; Makoto Hasebe (Yasuhito Endo 53) , Hotaru Yamaguchi; Shinji Okazaki, Shinji Kagawa (Yoichiro Kakitani 86), Keisuke Honda; Yuya Osako (Yoshito Okubo 67).
Subs not used: Shuichi Gonda (GK), Shusaku Nishikawa (GK), Masahiko Inoha, Yasuyuki Konno, Hiroki Sakai, Gotoku Sakai, Toshihiro Aoyama, Hiroshi Kiyotake, Manabu Saito
Booked: Yoshida (23), Morishige (64)
Referee: Enrique Osses (Chile)
Extratime.com Man of the Match: Serge Aurier (Ivory Coast)