Senegalese captain and English Premier League based defender Kalidou Koulibaly Tuesday sent the Lions of Teranga roaring into the round of 16 at the 2022 FIFA World Cup after the 31-year-old scored the final goal in a do or die match against Ecuador.
Koulibaly said he dedicates his goal and the win to Pape Bouba Diop, a former midfielder from the West African nation who passed away at age 42, and is fondly remembered by football fans as the player who scored the winning goal after the Lions of Teranga defeated France 1-0 in 2002.
“The is for the family of Pape Bouba Diop,” said Koulibaly, adding, “we wanted to make him proud and give homage to him because he made me dream as a boy.”
Winger Ismaïla Sarr scored the opening goal for the African champions after he converted a penalty in the 44th minute past Ecuador’s 35-year-old goalkeeper Hernán Galíndez.
Despite being 1-0 down by half time, the South Americans showed presence in the game having maintained a majority 44 percent ball possession, but no shots on target.
The West Africans had minority ball possession but threatened more at goal having successfully shot the ball four times on target.
Ecuador successfully pulled one back in the 67th minute after defender Felix Torres delivered the ball into the box which was successfully met by his teammate Moisés Caicedo who slotted it into the back of the net, making the scoreline 1-1.
Senegal’s English Premier League based midfielder, Idrissa Gana Gueye changed the game for the West Africans in the 70th minute after he stepped up for a freekick.
Gueye successfully delivered the ball into the box which bounced off Ecuador’s Torres but was met by Koulibaly who fired a volley past Galíndez and into the back of the net, making the scoreline 2-1.
The Ecuadorians fought until the final whistle and in the dying minutes of the game tried to equalize after substitute Jeremy Sarmiento whipped a cross into the box in the 90th minute but was glanced at by teammate Jackson Porozo and bounced wide of the far post.
Gustavo Alfaro, Ecuador’s head coach described the loss as a huge blow to the South Americans.
“I am in pain over this defeat,” said Alfaro.
“Unfortunately we made mistakes in this decisive match,” added the South American coach.