Ecuador 1-2 Senegal: Kalidou Koulibaly pops up with second-half winner to book African side’s spot in the last-16

Kalidou Koulibaly went in search of inspiration from the late Papa Bouba Diop as he prepared for a date with destiny, writing the number 19 onto his yellow captain’s armband with a black marker pen.

Nineteen had been the shirt number worn by the former Fulham midfielder when he scored Senegal’s famous winning goal against France in the World Cup finals in 2002.

Here in Qatar, on the second anniversary of Diop’s death at the age of 42, Koulibaly scored the winning goal.

It was a composed side-foot volley to crush Ecuador, for whom a draw would have been enough to qualify from Group A, and send the African champions into the last 16 of this World Cup.

There, they will face England for the first time ever if Gareth Southgate’s team win Group B.

Senegal deserved their victory and although they will be without Idrissa Gana Gueye in the last 16, it provides some sort of consolation for their exit four years ago when they were eliminated at this stage of the World Cup in bizarre fashion.

Locked together with Japan on points, goal difference and goals, they were eliminated by virtue of the fact they had two more yellow cards in the group stage.

It was a bitter pill. This time, it was Ecuador who collapsed in tears at the final whistle. They had played so well during their first two games but here they seemed to freeze.

Senegal took the lead in the 44th minute from a penalty won and converted by Watford forward Sarr, who was clumsily barged over by Bayer Leverkusen central defender Piero Hincapie as he drifted in behind Ecuador’s back four from the left.

Sarr picked himself up to score coolly form the spot, fixing the goalkeeper with his stare as he shuffled up to the spot and stroked it inside the post without looking at the ball, to spark a mass celebration featuring all the substitutes.

It was a goal the African champions deserved, having made such a bold and adventurous start to a game they needed to win if they were to progress.

Gana Gueye wasted a glorious chance inside three minutes, firing wide when well placed, but he wasn’t the only one. Boulaye Dia dragged wide when played through by Youssouf Salaby

Sheffield United’s Iliman Ndiaye, started on the right for Senegal and tormented Pervis Estupinan of Brighton during the opening 20 minutes. Ndiaye curled a shot wide from one side, Sarr did the same from the other and Salaby headed over.

Ecuador, having impressed with their high-intensity style during the first two games of the tournament, offered very little. As if paralysed by the knowledge that a point was enough.

Their captain Enner Valencia, scorer of all three of their goals in Qatar and his country’s previous three World Cup goals, was fit to start despite a knee injury but they barely made it out of their own half for the first 45 minutes.

Even so, it seemed the South Americans had survived the storm by disrupting the rhythm of the game and the contest was more even by the time Sarr won the penalty and scored his 11th goal for Senegal.

Ecuador’s Argentine boss Gonzalo Alfaro made two changes at half time, and switch shape to 442. Immediately, his team appeared more comfortable, and enjoyed more possession.

Senegal dropped deeper and defended. Everton midfielder Gana Gueye, winning his 99th cap, picked up a yellow card for using an arm in a foul on Gonzalo Plata, a caution that would rule him out of the next game if his team progressed.

Very quickly, however, the initiative was back with Ecuador. A corner, headed forward by Felix Torres, was turned into the net from close range by midfielder Moises Caicedo.

Senegal’s Sabaly standing beside a post had played Caicedo onside but Aliou Cisse’s team responded swiftly and were back in front within three minutes from a free-kick.

It was delivered from the right by Gana Gueye, struck Ecuador captain Valencia on the hip and popped up kindly for Koulibaly, who guided it past ‘keeper on the volley with the inside of his right foot. It was the winner.

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I'm the Chief- Editor at CreebHills. We strive to constantly provide news in various domains in connection to the Nigerian region and the rest of the world. I work also as a PR and Brand Specialist and aim to grow Creebhiils as a brand to reach mass audiences. You can reach out to me at [email protected]