Senegal weathered a late uprising to secure Africa’s first win at the 2018 World Cup with a 2-1 victory over an oddly listless Poland.
Marshalled by ex-captain Aliou Cisse, the only black coach at the tournament, Senegal took the lead mere minutes before half-time when Everton midfielder Idrissa Gueye drove a deflected shot in off Thiago Cionek’s legs.
Poland then proceeded to let the match pass by them as Adam Nawalka’s disjointed, lacklustre side idled along without imposing on Senegal in the slightest.
Robert Lewandowski, quiet and frustrated all game, did have a freekick repelled by Khadim N’Diaye, though the ‘keeper wasn’t really close to being beaten…
Sure enough, the Poles then sunk themselves even further into the mire on the hour when Grzegorz Krychowiak dropped a clanger in midfield that ultimately presented The Lions of Teranga (now that’s a fine nickname) with a gift of a second goal.
Indeed, Krychowiak let loose a sloppy back-pass that was gobbled up by Mbaye Niang, who dodged past the charging Wojciech Szczesny and walked the ball into the gaping maw of the Polish net.
In fairness to Krychowiak, he had been unaware of Niang’s loitering as the forward had only just been waved back onto the pitch by the referee.
Speaking of Niang, he’s now had one shot at a World Cup and used it to score his first ever international goal. Not a bad ratio.
Still… and let’s not let Szczesny off the hook either. Another goalkeeper who cannot resist the urge to come haring out upfield at a moment’s notice. Surely staying put in his goalmouth and forcing Niang to beat him properly would have been the correct decision in the circumstances?
Anyway, Poland and Krychowiak did manage to salvage a shred of dignity at the death when the PSG man met a deep freekick with a smart header to pull one back for the Poles in the 86th minute…
Sensing a shift in psychology, Poland then continued to push for an equaliser, showing the kind of zeal and creativity that had previously eluded them.
Ultimately, however, they were beaten by the whistle, thus beginning their World Cup campaign with a rather underwhelming result and performance.
Much more gumption will be required against Colombia and Japan if they hope to get out of the group.
As for Senegal, we think this GIF sums it all up quite nicely…
Many thanks to the wonderful Kelly Welles for that little belter!