Stuart Pearce’s Team GB kicked of their Olympic campaign with an sluggish 1-1 draw against Senegal.
The team has come under much speculation of late due to the omission of David Beckham and a rusty performance against Brazil last week did little to restore faith in Pearce’s tactics. The atmosphere or lack of it won’t have helped the team to settle, the mixture of loyalties between club and country was evident with the home fans booing Craig Bellamy.
GB had much of the possession in the opening ten minutes but failed to create any real clear cut chances against a well organised Senegalese defence who were content to sit and soak up pressure. At times Danny Rose and Tom Cleverley were guilty of trying to force the play a little and the experience of Bellamy and Giggs was welcome in controlling the tempo, after all long ball football is not going to suit the likes of Daniel Struridge.
Team GB broke the deadlock after twenty minutes. Caulker’s knockdown from a Giggs free kick saw Bellamy lash home a volley from twelve yards out. The goal settled Team GB down and they began playing with the freedom of expression you would associate with an under 23 tournament.
GB hearts were running a little quicker though when young ‘keeper Jack Butland scuffed a clearance straight to Sadio Mane, the big striker however wasted a golden opportunity by chipping the ball well wide of the right hand upright. Two minutes later and Mane again caused problems. Latching onto a wonderful through ball from Ciss, he evaded Caulker and only a last ditch tackle from Richards prevented him from getting a shot off.
There were many positives for GB fans at the end of the first period. Joe Allen’s first half display was a particular highlight, and despite being advertised as Englishman in the pre match programme the Welshman was showing just why he is a target for Liverpool.
Early in the second half Jack Butland produced a stunning save from Balde, Senegal worked the ball well into the box and the big striker hit a first time shot towards the bottom right hand corner. Butland dived well for a man of 6ft 4 and clawed the ball round the post for a corner.
The second half struggled to break into a rhythm; GB’s passing game was disrupted by consistent and cynical fouling on the part of Senegal. Danny Rose was again guilty of being wasteful in possession and as GB tired Senegal began to create more chances. Indeed Balde’s header was goal bound from a well worked corner if not for Rose’s clearing header from the front post.
Aaron Ramsey very nearly had an immediate impact after coming on for Joe Allen. Ramsey’s clipped pass found Danny Rose and his teasing cross was met by Bellamy who this time could only drag his volley back into the box where it was cleared.
Senegal’s physical game took a nasty turn later in the second half when Craig Bellamy was taken out inside the Senegal box. In what was a nasty potentially leg breaking challenge Ciss was late and lunging. Shockingly the official appeared to not only see the incident, but then looked set to give the Welshman a second yellow before apparently changing his mind. It was as clear a penalty as you’ll ever see and GB had every right to be angry.
Senegal made GB pay for a shocking error late on. GB’s corner routine fell apart as a tired looking Ryan Giggs gave the ball away, Senegal then broke and a delightful through ball found Konate who had timed his run to perfection and placed a shot low past Jack Butland who in truth didn’t deserve to concede.
Aaron Ramsey’s cross gave Marvin Sordell the chance to win it late on but his finish hit the bar when the goal was at his mercy.
Stuart Pearce will be disappointed with his team’s apparent inability to kill the game off and also their sometimes naive defending. Frustration will also be levelled at the option not to take an experienced out and out striker considering the chances which occurred later on. Positives can be taken from the performances of Joe Allen and Jack Butland, but they will have to raise their game if they wish to take anything from the game against a very talented Uruguayan team.