Japan and Senegal played out a pulsating 2-2 draw in their 2018 FIFA World Cup Group H tie at the Ekaterinburg Arena on Sunday, with both sides remaining in pole position to qualify for the knockouts.
Sadio Mane opened the scoring in fortuitous circumstances, with Japan goalkeeper Eiji Kawashima’s poor punch clattered against the Liverpool winger’s legs and trickled into the net in the 11th minute.
The Blue Samurai responded with concerted pressure and would equalise in the 34th minute, but their goal was an excellent team effort and there was certainly no luck involved.
Takashi Inui’s curling shot evaded the clutches of Khadim Ndiaye and the Asian giants deservedly went into the interval level with their African opponents.
Senegal somewhat recovered as the second-half began, but it was mostly Japan who were doing the running and they always looked likelier to take the lead.
It wasn’t to be, however, as the Lions of Teranga went ahead in the 72nd minute after some stellar all-round work from their forward line.
Right-back Moussa Wague, all of 19 years, arrived in the box at the right time to fire a shot into the roof of the net and at that moment, it looked like game over.
The Japanese dugout bore a defeated look but substitute Keisuke Honda, probably playing his last World Cup, would make sure he applied the finishing touches to Inui’s cross 12 minutes from time.
With the result, both sides remain on top with four points.
Japan had earlier edged Colombia 2-1 in their opener while Senegal had beaten Poland by the same scoreline.
Poland take on Colombia in the other Group H tie later in the night. It’s truly a must-win tie for both sides.