Dubai: Senegal and Japan dished out an entertaining Group H encounter to draw 2-2 in Yekatarinburg and take a step closer to the round of 16 in Russia 2018 this evening.
The Blue Samurai twice came from behind as goals from Senegal captain Sadio Mane and Moussa Wague were matched by strikes from Takashi Inui and Keisuke Honda, respectively, in a game which went end to end.
Senegal took the lead in the 11th minute when Japan goalkeeper Eiji Kawashima punched a cross into Mane’s leg and the ball bounced back over the line and in, before Inui’s curled finish on 34 minutes meant the sides went in level at the break.
Wague’s powerful shot into the roof of the net on 64 minutes looked to have secured the points for Senegal, but Japan substitute Honda turned in a brilliant Inui pull-back with 12 minutes remaining to give the Asian side a share of the points.
The draw means both nations go into the final round of matches on four points at the top of the group.
Senegal called the shots early on when Ismaila Sarr broke into a powerful run down the right flank but he was thwarted by a Japan defender.
Mane rarely threatened in Senegal’s opening win over Poland, but said prior to the game that he hadn’t lost confidence in his scoring ability.
The lively contest continued before Inui’s curled finish on 34 minutes meant the sides went in level at the break.
The second half sprang to life when Wague found himself in the right spot following a move initiated by Mane on the right to make it 2-1 for the African side.
Not to be daunted, the Asians went for counter attacks and Genki Haraguchi sent in a floater that was thwarted. Within minutes, senior pro Honda - who came in as a substitute - put his name on the scoresheet with an opportunistic strike to make it 2-2.
Senegal brought in midfielder Badou Ndiaye in place of his Stoke City teammate Mame Biram Diouf while Japan named an unchanged side for the match between the two Group H pacesetters.
The experienced Honda and Shinji Okazaki, who both came on as substitutes in Japan’s 2-1 wn over Colombia, did not start with Yuya Osako leading the attack on a bright sunny evening in Yekaterinburg.