Thursday, 26 July 2012

Team GB held by spirited Senegal

In their first fixture in Olympics since 1960, Team Great Britain started off with a draw against Senegal in their opening game of the Olympic London 2012 football tournament at Old Trafford. 

Craig Bellamy looked to have given Great Britain an historic victory to follow their female counterparts with a goal after 20 minutes, but the match hinged on referee Ravshan Irmatov's refusal to award the Liverpool striker a penalty after a clattering challenge from Salio Ciss. 

The Senegalese took full advantage of their reprieve and equalised seven minutes from time following a sweeping counter attack; finished off by Moussa Konate. Substitute Marvin Sordell could have grabbed a late winner but struck the bar as Stuart Pearce had to settle for a point ahead of group games against United Arab Emirates and Uruguay. 

In Team GB's first competitive fixture for 50 years, Pearce began with seven players from England and four from Wales against a Senegal side, of which five of the squad graduated from Patrick Vieira's football academy, who required a play off against Oman in April to qualify for the main draw. 

Ryan Giggs, who began as captain in his maiden international tournament at the age of 38, started in the centre of midfielder alongside fellow countryman Joe Allen and club teammate Tom Cleverley. 

While the hosts looked disjointed in the opening stages, Senegal's athletic side looked a threat in the final third and Jack Butland had to be alert to prevent Salio Ciss' deflected cross breaking the deadlock. 

Having recover from viral meningitis to take his place in the Games, Daniel Sturridge was replaced at half time, with Marvin Sordell introduced to spearhead GB's attack, but it was Senegal who again posed the more potent threat, with Stephane Badji's producing a sprawling save out of Butland. 

The Birmingham City stopper was again called into action as the home side allowed Ciss enough time to shoot from range, before Danny Rose headed off the line from Abdoulaye Ba's header from the resulting corner. 

Allen and Bellamy's departure, following a challenge from Ciss in the penalty area which went unpunished, saw GB's authority continue to diminish, and Senegal eventually drew level after a move which Konate saw sweep home. Sordell should have snatched all three points after Aaron Ramsey's storming run, but hit the bar, as Senegal held out to frustrate the host nation at the Theatre of Dreams. 

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