24.6 C
New York
Sunday, October 1, 2023

Captain Koulibaly sends Senegal through to knockout stages at Ecuador’s expense

African champions Senegal confirmed their spot in the 2022 FIFA World Cup knockout stages on Tuesday with a clutch 2-1 victory over Ecuador, allowing the Lions of Teranga to leap past the South American nation into second place in Group A. Center back captain Kalidou Koulibaly picked a crucial time to score his first international goal with a 70th minute volley coming in response to Moisés Caicedo’s equalizer a few minutes before. Senegal join Group A winners Netherlands in the Round of 16 with a matchup against the Group B winners awaiting the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations champion.

Senegal took control of the early proceedings against an Ecuador team that only needed a draw to advance, a result La Tri appeared to be focused on rather than playing to win. Opportunities arrived quickly for the West African side with Idrissa Gana Gueye firing just wide in the 3rd minute from an Ismaïla Sarr cross before Boulaye Dia sent his show low and wide five minutes later. Sarr nearly scored himself in the 24th minute after winning the ball off Ecuador left back Ángelo Preciado, proceeding to cut inside and curl his shot just off target.

Sarr continued to cause issues with his pace on the ball and in the 42nd minute drew a penalty kick after being taken down in the box by Ecuador center back Piero Hincapié. The Watford FC attacker took on the responsibility and delivered a perfect spot kick, rolling his shot just inside the post with goalkeeper Hernán Galíndez.

Ecuador woke up after the halftime break and the flow of play changed completely as La Tri eagerly pushed forward for a needed goal. The South American team struggled to trouble the Senegalese defense but a set piece gave them the breakthrough in the 67th minute. A Gonzalo Plata corner kick was met by Santos Laguna center back Félix Torres for a near post header that found Caicedo wide open to volley past Senegal keeper Édouard Mendy.

However, Ecuador suffered heartbreak only three minutes later by the same method that got them back into the match. A free kick from out wide was served in by Gueye and the ball ricocheted off the thigh of Ecuador forward Enner Valencia, falling right to a wide open Koulibaly. The Chelsea center back made no mistake and sent his volley past Galíndez to spark jubilant celebration for the Senegalese team and its supporters. Ecuador pushed desperately for another equalizer but Senegal’s strong defense held out for three precious points and their first appearance in the World Cup knockout stage since their famed run to the quarterfinals in 2002.

Highlights are below.