DOHA: Kalidou Koulibaly sent Senegal into the knockout stages of the World Cup for only the second time in their history with victory in Tuesday’s dramatic 2-1 victory over Ecuador.
The Netherlands’ dominant victory over Qatar meant that only a win would see Senegal through to the knockout stages of Group A, while Ecuador held a drawn lead. Senegal opened the scoring through an Ismael Sarr penalty late in the first half, but despite successfully keeping Ecuador captain Ener Valencia calm, Brighton’s Moises Caicedo equalized in the 67th minute before Coulibaly sent his side home to Ecuador.
Senegal coach Aliou Cisse promised before the match that his experienced side would “not think too much” of the occasion and it was the Africans who opened the match strongly, with Everton’s Idrissa Gana Gueye firing the ball wide after just three minutes.
Less than a minute later, needing to save his side’s soaring defensive line, Ecuadorian goalkeeper Hernan Galíndez slid in to block a rebound just outside the penalty area. After 10 minutes, Senegalese Boulay Dia found himself in a one-on-one with Galendez, but cut the ball wide of the post.
Ecuador appeared to be springing to life with Senegal’s fierce opening, the Ecuador surged forward and won a free kick 30 meters from goal, and the South Americans took the opportunity to take a rare break before Valencia smashed the ball into the wall.
After furious opening exchanges, the two sides began to settle down and it looked like the first half would end goalless before Ecuador defender Piero Hincapie was brought down in Sarr, giving referee Clément Turbin no choice but to signal the penalty spot.
Sarr stepped up and slotted a stunning penalty past Galindez, maintaining eye contact with the goalkeeper as the ball went in. Ecuador started the second half more lively and determined, perhaps reassured that the Netherlands’ dominance of Qatar meant they only needed a draw to go through.
From a free kick, defender Félix Torres rose high to head the ball to Caicedo who was waiting at the far post and slotted home. Senegal responded immediately and in almost identical fashion, with Coulibaly lurking at the far post after a free kick deflected by Hincapie. Going into the match with a yellow card, Guy picked up a booking in the second half and will miss Senegal’s round of 16 match against the Group B winners.