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Japan edge Côte d'Ivoire with late Ueda goal

Utrecht: Substitute Naomichi Ueda’s injury time header earned Japan a 1-0 win over Côte d'Ivoire on Tuesday as the Samurai Blue completed their two-match stint in Europe with an unbeaten record.

Ueda headed home Gaku Shibasaki’s free-kick in the first minute of added time as Hajime Moriyasu’s side followed up Friday’s 0-0 draw with Cameroon with victory over the Ivorians at the Stadion Galgenwaard in Utrecht in the Netherlands.

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Moriyasu made seven changes to the team that drew with the Cameroonians, with Villarreal winger Takefusa Kubo starting and Liverpool’s Takumi Minamino left on the bench.

That meant only central defensive pairing Maya Yoshida and Takehhiro Tomiyasu remained from Friday’s draw, alongside Yuta Nakayama and Shibasaki as Moriyasu took the opportunity to test more of his squad.

One of the new arrivals, striker Musashi Suzuki, went closest to putting Japan in front in the opening 45 minutes when he narrowly failed to apply the finishing touch to a flowing move down the left that opened up the Côte d'Ivoire defence involving Nakayama and Kubo.

The Africans had offered little attacking threat in the first half, but forced goalkeeper Daniel Schmidt into action soon after the resumption.

Former Arsenal striker Gervinho saw his shot kept out as Schmidt dropped to his left before Franck Kessie fired over the bar on the turn from eight yards out several minutes later.

It was Moriyasu’s side, though, that carried the greater threat in the final third, with Daiki Kamada impressing throughout. The Eintracht Frankfurt midfielder latched on to Junya Ito’s pass from the right, only to warm the hands of goalkeeper Sylvain Gbohouo with his shot.

Kamada turned provider soon after, pulling the ball back to Minamino – who replaced Kubo in the 61st minute – but the former Cerezo Osaka man was unable to find a way past Gbohouo.

The game looked destined to end in a draw until Ueda, who had been on the field less than two minutes in place of Sei Muroya, powered his header over Gbohouo to give the four-time AFC Asian Cup winners victory.

Photos: AFP

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