Half-Time Report: Keisuke Honda fires Japan to slender lead

Keisuke Honda fires Japan into a 1-0 half-time lead over Ivory Coast in their World Cup clash in Recife.

Keisuke Honda has fired Japan into a 1-0 half-time lead over Ivory Coast in their World Cup clash in Recife this morning.

:Japan's forward Keisuke Honda celebrates after scoring during a Group C football match between Ivory Coast and Japan at the Pernambuco Arena in Recife during the 2014 FIFA World Cup on June 14, 2014© Getty Images

The AC Milan playmaker smashed past goalkeeper Boubacar Barry on 16 minutes to give the Blue Samurai an advantage at the halfway point in their Group C opener.

Boosted by the news that Yaya Toure was fit to participate, the Elephants started the brighter of both sides and nearly took a sixth-minute lead through Wilfried Bony, whose effort deflected narrowly wide.

Japan slowly grew into the clash and saw their improvement rewarded shortly after the 15-minute mark, as Honda's fiercely-struck shot left Barry with no chance.

It could, and perhaps should, have been two just minutes later as wing-back Atsuto Uchida fended off two challenges but fired straight at Barry.

Toure fizzed a free kick narrowly over the bar but it was to be as close as Ivory Coast came to an equaliser in the first half.

Didier Drogba celebrates scoring for Ivory Coast against Turkey on February 11, 2009.
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