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FOOTBALL

Ivory Coast hit back for first win

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Sub Nadj commits the foul that earns him a red card against Ivory Coast.

SPECIAL REPORT

MUNICH, Germany -- Ivory Coast fought back from two goals down to beat Serbia & Montenegro 3-2 and secure their first World Cup win in a fiercely fought battle on Wednesday.

Substitute Bonaventure Kalou struck the winner from the penalty spot after Serbia defender Milan Dudic handled in the area for the second time.

Dudic gave away a blatant first-half penalty that let Ivory Coast back into the match in Munich and avoid finishing bottom of Group C.

The theoretically meaningless game was played in continual rain, torrential at first, but there was nothing damp about the action on the pitch which was an exciting spectacle.

The crunching tackles and repeated yellow cards, seven in the first half alone, showed neither side wanted to end fourth in a group generally regarded as the toughest at this World Cup.

The result left Serbia & Montenegro, playing in their last match as one team after Montenegro's vote for independence, without a point.

Both sides had already lost to Argentina and Netherlands and had no chance to qualify for the last 16.

The west Africans followed their now familiar pattern of letting in two early goals, before halving the advantage -- they lost 2-1 to Argentina and Netherlands -- showing they continue to suffer defensive lapses despite their efforts to solve them.

The Serbs, seeking self-respect after a 6-0 drubbing by Argentina in their last game, again had a man sent off as substitute stand-in left back Albert Nadj was shown a second yellow just before the break.

Striker Mateja Kezman had received a red card against Argentina.

Serbia took the lead in the 10th minute when striker Nikola Zigic controlled a long ball from Dejan Stankovic, rounded the keeper and slotted home.

They doubled their advantage in the 19th minute when Sasa Ilic pounced on a fumbled clearance by Ivory Coast stand-in captain Cyrille Domoraud from a Predag Djordjevic cross.

Only a minute earlier, the Ivorians missed a golden chance when Arune Dindane shot against the keeper from close range before Kanga Akale missed an easy rebound.

Coach Henri Michel, in his last match in charge, had his head in his hands.

However, their pressure eventually paid off when Dindane tucked away a twice-taken penalty in the 36th minute following a needless handball by Dudic.

With a man advantage, Ivory Coast dominated the second half. Blaise Kouassi struck the bar, Dindane came close with a header and finally headed in a Kader Keita cross in the 67th minute to cheers from appreciate neutrals in the crowd.

But they were not finished yet and when Dudic again handled in the area, even if it was less deliberate this time, Kalou stepped up to score and seal a historic victory for Ivory Coast who had Domoraud sent off for a second booking in stoppage time.

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