Ecuador 1 – 2 Senegal
Kalidou Koulibaly proved an unlikely matchwinner as Senegal reached the last 16 of the World Cup with a 2-1 victory over Ecuador, who are out of the tournament.
Senegal will now play the winners of Group B – the group which England currently top – on Sunday night.
The Chelsea defender’s superb volleyed winner came only two minutes after Moises Caicedo had pulled Ecuador level from a corner, a result which would have taken the South Americans through in their place.
The African side fully deserved to qualify from their World Cup group for the first time in 20 years, largely in part to a first-half performance where they blew away Ecuador, who came into the match knowing they only needed a point to progress.
It took until the final minute of the opening period for Senegal’s dominance to count, when Ismaila Sarr was fouled in the area before confidently beating Hernan Galindez from 12 yards.
Though Caicedo briefly gave Ecuador hope midway through the second period it was a brief respite with Senegal still the more dangerous side even after Koulibaly’s goal, and Edouard Mendy’s goal was relatively untroubled as they jumped into second to set up a last-16 tie with the winners of Group B.
How Senegal broke Ecuador hearts in Qatar
Ecuador: Galindez (6), Torres (5), Hincapie (5), Estupinan (6), Preciado (6), Gruezo (5), Plata (6), Caicedo (6), Franco (5), Estrada (5), Valencia (5).
Subs: Reasco (6), Porozo (6).
Senegal: E Mendy (6), Sabaly (7), Koulibaly (9), Diallo (7), Jakobs (7), Ciss (7), I Gueye (7), P Gueye (7), Ndiaye (8), I Sarr (8), Dia (6).
Subs: N Mendy (6), Bamba (6), Cisse (n/a).
Player of the match: Kalidou Koulibaly
The form book had Ecuador as slight favourites to progress, having drawn with the Netherlands in a game they could easily have won, and needing only a point to reach the last 16 for the first time since 2006.
A surprisingly gung-ho gameplan proved their undoing, with Idrissa Gueye missing a fine early chance for Senegal after Sarr exploited Ecuador’s attacking full-backs and galloped in behind down the flank.
Less than 10 minutes had gone by the time Senegal could have been two goals ahead, with Boulaye Dia dragging a shot wide when clean through after Ecuador failed to clear their lines.
Finally the South Americans regained some composure but still found themselves behind before the break as Sarr stole in ahead of Felix Torres and was brought down by Piero Hincapie, who was left with his head in his hands as the Watford winger then scored emphatically from 12 yards.
Ecuador made two substitutes at the break and with a much-needed change in shape finally began to control the tempo of the game. It still took them nearly 25 minutes to break down a stubborn Senegal backline, when Caicedo stooped to turn home Torres’ flick from a corner.
Big moments in the game…
- 3 min: Gueye hits side netting with goal gaping in frantic start
- 8 min: Dia scuffs effort wide when through one-on-one
- 44 min: Sarr nets classy penalty after he is fouled by Hincapie
- 67 min: Caicedo pulls Ecuador level with header from corner
- 70 min: Koulibaly volley restores Senegal lead instantly
Having waited so long to restore their hopes of qualification, they threw them away within moments. Koulibaly would be more familiar attacking a free-kick with his head than his feet but when Gueye’s delivery was nodded down to him, he finished with aplomb before Galindez knew anything about it.
Ecuador threw men forward with their World Cup dreams on the line but in vain, as they failed to seriously test Mendy as Senegal celebrated reaching the last 16 at their expense.
- Three-goal Enner Valencia recovered from being stretchered off against the Netherlands to keep his place in attack for Ecuador.
- Senegal made three changes from their win over Qatar, bringing in Saliou Ciss, Pape Gueye and Sheff Utd striker Iliman Ndiaye.
Premier League watch: Koulibaly back to his best to see Senegal through
Chelsea’s Kalidou Koulibaly put the Blues’ club worries behind him and gave Graham Potter a glimpse of what he can achieve. One perfectly timed tackle on Enner Valencia before the break highlighted a colossal defensive performance, and what a time to score your first international goal.
What does the result mean?
Ecuador are out of the World Cup in the group stages for the third tournament out of the four they have reached.
Senegal will play the winners of Group B in the last 16 on Sunday, kick-off 7pm.
What else happened at the World Cup on Tuesday?
In the other Group A game, the Netherlands cantered to victory against hosts Qatar with Cody Gakpo again on target in a comfortable 2-0 win.
The Dutch will play the runners-up of Group B in the last 16.