MOSCOW (Reuters) – Senegal took full advantage of their opponents’ errors to beat Poland 2-1 in their opening Group H match, finally giving Africa something to cheer about at the World Cup as the group favourites failed to fire.
Leading thanks to a clumsy Thiago Cionek own-goal in a poor first half, M’Baye Niang put the game beyond the disjointed Poles on the hour, seizing on goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny’s decision to race out of his area to gather a long back pass. Niang showed pace and control to beat the keeper and covering defender Jan Bednarek before slotting home in an empty net.
Grzegorz Krychowiak, author of the wayward back pass, made partial amends with a header five minutes from time but it was too late.
The result leaves Senegal, famous winners over defending champions France in the opening match of their last World Cup appearance in 2002, level with Japan.
The Asian team overcame Colombia by the same score earlier in the day. The last of five African teams to play in the tournament, Senegal are the only ones not to lose.
Poland have now gone six successive World Cups without scoring in their opening match and last won one in 1974.
Reporting by Alastair Macdonald @macdonaldrtr; editing by Pritha Sarkar