Rustenburg — Favourites Cote d'Ivoire got the victory they were expected to achieve at the start of their bid for African Nations Cup glory - but they hadn't expected as much toil as they were subjected to against Togo in Rustenburg on Tuesday.
Man of the match Gervinho delivered all three points to the pre-tournament favourites just two minutes from time to end a spirited display from a testy Togo side, who might have snatched a glorious victory themselves despite a fractured build-up.
There was enough from the Ivorian performance, particularly at the back, to suggest they are not as infallible as many of the pundits had been suggesting.
Indeed, they might have been a goal down after just 90 seconds when Togo’s captain Emmanuel Adebayor found himself with just the goalkeeper to beat, but he hesitated enough to allow Kolo Toure to mop up what might have been a calamitous start for the Elephants.
The Ivorian answer was swift when Gervinho dragged the ball back for African Footballer of the Year Yaya Toure to smack it home from just outside the penalty area in the eighth minute. The ball whizzed past goalkeeper Kossi Agassa and the timing seemed to suggest a potential massacre was on the cards.
But the Ivorians laboured through the first half until Toure hammered another powerful shot one minute from the break. The ball hit the woodwork, bouncing back into play as the goalpost shuddered from the power of the kick.
That served almost as a cue for Togo to produce an unlikely equaliser when the Ivorians failed to clear a corner and Jonathan Ayite swept home the ball.
They might have had the lead in the second half when a header from Dare Nidombe from another corner went in, but the referee was busy with a substitution and had not blown to restart play.
In the end the Ivorians snatched it with Toure again influential, delivering a free kick which unmarked Gervinho converted at the back post with just two minutes left.
There was still drama in stoppage time as Togo came close to another equaliser after a deft chip from Adebayor. But Boubacar Barry saved to give the favourites a win by the skin of their teeth.