Moscow: Senegal celebrated their return match to the FIFA World Cup after a gap of 16 years with a narrow 2-1 win over Poland in a Group H clash here on Tuesday.
An own goal from Thiago Cionek in the 37th minute and a quick counter-attack goal from M’Baye Niang in the 60th minute gave Senegal the 2-0 lead at the Spartak Stadium.
Poland pulled one back through Grzegorz Krychowiak win the 86th-minute but it was late for the European team to find an equaliser as Senegal, whose previous and only appearance at the World Cup came in 2002, became the first African nation to win a game at this year’s World Cup.
At the beginning of the match, both teams kept the ball in the midfield, with none of the sides getting a shot off in the first five minutes.
Senegal were the first to make an attack in the eighth minute as Niang’s shot was collected by Poland keeper Wojciech Szczesny, though the ball was going across the goal.
In the next few minutes, both teams continued to struggle to put an attack, courtesy a number of bad passes and miscommunication from both sides. Till the 36th minute, both teams made two shots but none of them troubled the keepers.
Senegal broke the deadlock in the 37th-minute as a strike from Idrissia Gueye got a massive deflection from defender Cionek which resulted as an own goal for Poland as the deflection caught Juventus keeper Szczesny wrong-footed.
The Africans missed a chance two minutes before the half-time when Senegal received a corner but Salif Sane headed it in a wrong direction.
Six minutes after the half-time, Poland were about to equalise the matter as a great free kick by Robert Lewandowski was saved by Senegal’s keeper Khadim N’Diaye, who dived near the left post to send the ball for a corner.
The western African nation extended their lead in the 62nd minute when Krychowiak clipped a high back-pass to Jan Bednarek, for which the substitute defender was completely unprepared for. Seeing the opportunity, Niang raced in unmarked off the right wing as he beat both the defender and onrushing goalkeeper Szczesny with a flick to send the ball into an open net.
The later few minute saw few substitutions from both the sides. Poland got some respite four minutes prior to the final whistles as Krychowiak headed a free-kick from eight yards out on the left, in at the right post with a deft touch.
The Polish side however, failed to equalise the issue as they narrowly lost their campaign opener.
On Sunday, Senegal will face Japan while Poland will take on Colombia.