WEMBLEY: A near-capacity Wembley crowd saw Senegal battle back from 2-0 down only to gift Mexico two goals in extra time in an entertaining quarter-final clash which ended with El Tri running out 4-2 winners.
The game started at a fast pace with both sides looking to begin positively with Mexico hitting the woodwork as early as the third minute. Marco Fabian jinked down the left and swung in a ball which was sloppily cleared straight back to him by a shaky Senegal defence. The Chivas forward replied with a curling shot which seemed destined for the top corner, but the ball rebounded off the crossbar and away to safety.
Mexico took the lead with a well-worked goal after ten minutes. Giovani dos Santos clipped in a free kick which Jorge Enriquez headed towards far post and drifted past the despairing dive of Ousmane Mane.
Senegal began their fight-back when Moussa Konate’s 25-yard drive was palmed away by Jose Corona palms for a corner. It was a super strike and super save. The Cruz Azul keeper was on hand to deny Konate again soon after.
In their 2-0 win over Uruguay, Pape Souare and Konate caused plenty of problems and the duo combined well again today. Souare’s corner from the left was headed towards goal by Konate and only a fine reaction save from Jose Corona denied the Africans an equaliser.
Mexico had two good chances to double their advantage on the stroke of half-time. Israel Jimenez picked up the ball inside the box but a fantastic last-ditch challenge from Abdoulaye Ba denied him a goalscoring opportunity. Then Oribe Peralta’s header, following Fabian’s inch-perfect cross, drifted narrowly wide.
After the break Senegal took the game to Mexico, Cheikou Kouyate whistled a 25 yard drive across the face of goal, but gaps were opening up in the Africans’ defence too. Some lovely team-play saw Dos Santos feed Fabian inside the box. He looked to slide the ball beyond Mane, but the keeper saved well with his legs.
Senegal had a double chance to score in the 55th minute, as a header by Souare forced Corona into a point blank save. The rebound fell into the path of Sadio Mane lurking just yards from the line, but his effort was cleared by Hiram Mier.
The Lions of Teranga refused to give up and went close when Corona saved well from Konate’s volley from another Souare left-wing cross. That was a warning sign as the Souare-Konate axis inevitably paid off two minutes later. A downward header from Konate following his team-mate’s cross gave him his fifth goal of the tournament – and his side a lifeline.
Senegal had their tails up and they were relentless in their pressure. They got the equaliser their efforts deserved with a quarter of an hour to go when Souare’s corner was headed home by Ibrahima Balde.
Mexico almost won it in the final minute of additional time, Dos Santos’s cross from the right being headed over the bar by Peralta. It would have been a fine goal, but the scores stayed level and became the first game of London 2012 to go into extra time.
Mexico dominated the early stages of the first period and had three excellent chances to take the lead, firstly with Peralta’s drilled shot from 20 yards forcing Mane into a low save. A minute later Hector Herrera’s side-footed effort went narrowly wide and the keeper saved well with his legs to keep out Fabian’s half-volley.
El Tri went ahead again in fortunate circumstances, Dos Santos capitalising on a terrible defensive lapse. Papa Gueye dallied in possession on the edge of his box, when the energetic Tottenham Hotspur forward stole the ball and coolly slotted home.
Once again, going behind stung Senegal into action. Sadio Mane’s shot from 12 yards was beaten away by Corona and from the resulting corner Kara Mbodji’s powerful header flew just over.
Another piece of defensive naivety allowed Mexico to score their fourth of the afternoon and wrap-up the game. Under pressure, Ba casually tried to play the ball back to Mane, but power in his headerwas lacking. It allowed Raul Jimenez to latch on to the loose ball, hit a shot, which the keeper parried, but Herrera was on hand to turn it home.
Senegal refused to give up and Corona acrobatically tipped the ball over the bar with one hand to keep out Balde’s half-volley, but that was the last real chance they created.
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