Senegal got Africa’s first win of the World Cup with a 2-1 victory over Poland in Moscow on Tuesday. The team was helped by two fluky goals: a deflection and a score by a player who was apparently unnoticed by the Poland defense.
In the 37th minute of an evenly matched game, Sadio Mane held the ball for a moment, then found the perfect pass to Idrissa Gueye. He fired at goal and it took a carom off Poland’s Thiago Cionek and zipped into the net. It was bad luck for Poland, but put Senegal ahead.
Senegal’s second goal, in the 60th minute, was even more bizarre. Grzegorz Krychowiak of Poland passed the ball back toward Jan Bednarek, the last defender, near the center circle. A routine play.
Except that Senegal’s M’Baye Niang had left the field and just at that moment had been approved by the ref to return. He spotted the action and raced to the ball with Bednarik completely unaware.
Keeper Wojciech Szczesney figured out the situation and sped a good 40 yards out from his net. But it was too late. Niang got the ball and cruised toward the empty net for the easiest, though strangest, of scores.
Poland pulled a goal back with three minutes to play on a header from Krychowiak, author of the misbegotten back pass.
Senegal’s victory added to the drama in what is suddenly a tumultuous Group H. Senegal and Japan both have wins now, and Colombia and Poland, which surely thought they’d fight each other for first place, and both looking up. They will meet Sunday in Kazan in what is now an incredibly important game for both of them. But the results in Group H also have consequences for Group G, which will face the survivors in the round of 16.
Victor Mather and Andrew Das © 2018 New York Times News Service