Friday 15 February 2019

Mina is Colombian hero as Senegal go out on yellow cards

Senegal 0 Colombia 1

Colombia's defender Yerry Mina (C) heads and scores a goal
Colombia's defender Yerry Mina (C) heads and scores a goal

Senegal are out of the World Cup and, in an unprecedented stroke of ill fortune, they head home after receiving two more yellow cards than Japan.

Their players slumped to the ground at what turned out be the end of a campaign that could hardly have been decided more cruelly. Both they and Colombia had looked sure to go through from Group H after Poland took the lead in Volgograd.

But Yerry Mina's header epitomised Colombia's determination not to sit on a draw and, while South American prospects receive another perk, Africa will now not have a single representative in the round of 16.

Both managers had predicted an intense encounter at the outset and there was certainly nothing laid-back about the atmosphere inside Samara Arena.

So it boded ill when a rash challenge from Kalidou Koulibaly on Radamel Falcao gave Colombia their first sight of goal. Juan Quintero went under the wall with a free-kick to outfox Japan two games ago; this time he whipped up, round and over only to see Khadim Ndiaye tip wide.

That was by no means the only instance of over-zealousness from Senegal but the next tackle to cause concern came inside the Colombia area. Eighteen minutes had passed with the Teranga Lions threatening little but when a quick transition sent Sadio Mane running clear the yellow hordes held their breath. Mane hesitated slightly and Davinson Sanchez recovered to nick the ball away with what, from a distance, appeared a clean tackle. Referee Milorad Mazic thought otherwise, to widespread bemusement, but an obvious injustice was averted when VAR was deployed to change his mind. It had been a fine challenge and, while the technology has its considerable drawbacks, this was the latest example of its effective deployment at Russia 2018.

The on-pitch produce was little more than a series of wasted counters from Senegal but, off it, everything changed just before the hour. That was when Jan Bednarek broke the deadlock for Poland in Volgograd, and a stadium increasingly fraught with tension became a Latin American cacophony once more.

So imagine the din when Mina, flinging his 6ft 5in frame at Quintero's corner, thundered the ball past Ndiaye at precisely the stage when both sides might have decided, in French and Danish fashion, to call it a day.

Now Senegal had to fling players forward. David Ospina beat away Mbaye Niang's effort and Ismaila Sarr fluffed a right-footed volley when found in space. The final whistle brought delight for Colombia, but desolation for Senegal.

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