Colombia edge closer to knockouts

James Rodriguez scored Colombia's first goal

James Rodriguez scored Colombia's first goal

First published in National Sport News © by

Colombia closed in on the knockout stages of the World Cup after beating Ivory Coast 2-1 in a fiercely- contested Group C clash in Brasilia.

James Rodriguez fired Colombia ahead just after the hour with a powerful header from a corner, with substitute Juan Quintero adding a second on the break.

However, a fine individual goal from former Arsenal forward Gervinho set up a tense finale, but the Elephants could not find an equaliser.

Both sides went into the clash at the Estadio Nacional having opened their World Cup campaigns with victories.

Colombia manager Jose Pekerman named the same starting XI which helped defeat Greece 3-0, with captain Mario Yepes earning his 100th cap.

Ivory Coast, meanwhile, again left talisman Didier Drogba on the bench - the former Chelsea striker carrying a thigh injury, but still had an impact as a substitute in the 2-1 win over Japan in Recife.

It was Los Cafetero who made the more positive opening, with Teofilo Gutierrez firing wide from the edge of the penalty area.

Ivory Coast defender Didier Zokora needed to make an important block after Juan Cuadrado had got away down the right.

On 23 minutes, there was the first opening for the Elephants when a powerful run from captain Yaya Toure released Gervinho, but he was quickly hustled off the ball.

Colombia should have been ahead on the half-hour when a counter attack down the left saw the ball played into the penalty area for Gutierrez.

However, the River Plate forward, who looked to be offside, made a complete hash of his shot from six-yards out and stabbed the ball wide.

Ivory Coast full-back Serge Aurier, linked with a summer move to Arsenal, sent in a low drive from 18 yards, which was comfortably saved by Colombia goalkeeper David Ospina.

At the start of the second half, English referee Howard Webb waved away somewhat hopeful penalty appeals from Ivory Coast after Roma forward Gervinho went down under a challenge from Yepes.

On 55 minutes, Zokora was shown a yellow card for a late challenge on Cuadrado, which meant the one-time Tottenham defender would miss the final group match against Japan.

An ambitious bicycle kick from Swansea forward Wilfried Bony did not come off, before at the other end, Cuadrado's shot was pushed onto the post by Ivory Coast goalkeeper Boubacar Barry.

On the hour, Elephants' manager Sabri Lamouchi made a change when Drogba replaced Bony.

It was Colombia, though, who took the lead on 64 minutes when Monaco forward Rodriguez headed home from a corner.

There was immediately a second substitution for Ivory Coast as former Leicester and Leeds wide man Max Gradel was replaced by ex-Chelsea forward Salomon Kalou.

Colombia, however, doubled their lead on 70 minutes with a breakaway goal.

Gutierrez fed Juan Quintero as the pair closed down some poor Ivory Coast defending on the half-way line.

The Porto forward took the ball onto the edge of the penalty area before drilling it past Barry.

Ivory Coast needed a response - and got one through Gervinho's second goal of the World Cup on 73 minutes.

The winger, much maligned during his spell with the Gunners, collected the ball on the left and weaved into the penalty area, rode three challenges before smashing a shot inside the near post which Ospina got a hand to but could not keep out.

Ivory Coast were lifted by the goal, and went in search of an equaliser, substitute Mathis Bolly just unable to guide a diving header on target before Kalou shot straight at the goalkeeper.

Drogba almost got on the end of a long through ball during stoppage time, but Ospina was out quickly to make a clearance, leaving the Elephants probably needing victory in their final group match against Greece to keep alive chances of progressing.

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