WEMBLEY: Super-fit Senegal, despite being reduced to 10 men in the first half, upset Uruguay 2-0 in a stirring Olympic Group A clash at Wembley – the first Games match at the venue since Sweden beat Yugoslavia 3-1 in the final on August 13, 1948.
The South Americans thus succumbed to their first-ever defeat in the Olympic Games ‘proper.’ They had won gold in both their only previous appearances, in 1924 and 1928.
Adding in their opening win over UAE this time around, that meant an unbeaten record of 10 wins in 11 games was in danger [The only draw was 1-1 against Argentina in the 1928 final: Uruguay won the replay].
This was also only the second time in all their 12 games at the Olympics that they had conceded more than one goal. The only previous occasion was in also conceding two in a 3-2 win over Italy in the 1928 semi-finals.
Senegal made the perfect start. Cheikhou Kouyate’s header to a right-wing corner was only stopped, one-handed, by keeper Martin Campana on the goal-line and Moussa Konate followed in to open the scoring on 11 minutes.
It could have been two shortly afterwards but Campana threw himself up to his left to push a Konate drive wide for another corner.
Uruguay came their closest in the 29th minute when Gaston Ramirez planted a free kick against keeper Ousmane Mane’s left-hand post. Then Senegal were reduced to 10 men after Abdoulaye Ba was sent off for bringing down Luis Suarez as the Liverpool man – booed persistently by the crowd – burst forward on the left.
The impression that Uruguay would be back on terms at any moment was enhanced in the 35th minute when Sebastian Coates had an angled flick after a corner cleared off the goal-line by Saliou Ciss. Uruguay claimed the ball had been over the line but German referee Felix Brych waved play on.
Senegal capitalised remarkably. Uruguay were caught out by yet another corner, this time from the right by Pape Souare, and Konate headed home his second goal of the game and third of these Olympic finals.
It could have been 3-0 but Sadio Mane, running clear on the right, pulled the ball across the face of goal rather than shooting himself. Uruguay immediately ran play back down to the other end only for Edinson Cavani, despite steppinjg around keeper Ousmane Mane, seeing his soft shot cleared out of the goal area by Kouyate.
Uruguay boss Oscar Washington Tabarez sent on Palermo centre-forward Abel Hernandez at the start of the second half for the ineffective Maxi Calzada and he might have pulled one back after only five minutes on the pitch. Hernandez burst into the penalty box from the right but had two shots blocked by the Senegalese defence.
Uruguay went to three at the back but, if anything, this appeared to disrupt their efforts to forge a path back into the game – they lost shape and cohesion and started making even basic technical mistakes. Their performance only fragmented still further with the introductions of further substitutes in Jonathan Urretaviscaya and Tabare Viudez while Suarez, even when clear on goal in stoppage time, saw his tentative shot saved.
With seven minutes remaining, and a lead to defend, Senegal had sent on Kalidou Yero in place of Konate. He applauded the fans and Wembley, in return, afforded him a rousing ovation.
He had, after all, just made history.
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