ROARING LIONS KALIDOU KOULIBALY rescued Senegal’s World Cup dreams with a spectacular winner.
The Chelsea defender and captain of the African champions smashed home a volley which saw them into the last 16 at the expense of Ecuador.
Ismaila Sarr scored a no-look penalty to open the scoring in the first half
Moises Caicedo levelled the scores in the second half and briefly put Ecuador in second spout
But Chelsea defender Kalidou Koulibaly shattered their hopes three minutes later
The goal was a classy finish on instinct from a set piece in the 70th minute.
An out-swinging free kick rebounded off Ecuador skipper Enner Valencia and Koulibaly pounced to bury a ferocious volley across the face of goal into the opposite corner of the net.
It was even more dramatic as Senegal had conceded an equaliser just three minutes previously and that would have been enough to put them out with the South Americans going through instead in this all-or-nothing clash.
There was also a heartwarming touch to Koulibaly’s magical moment as he wore number 19 on his armband in tribute to international team mate and ex-Fulham midfielder Papa Boupa Diop who died two years ago today.
Senegal finish second in Group A behind The Netherlands and face a possible first date with England in the knockout stage.
The two countries have never met on the international stage and could now face each other on the biggest of them all.
Koulibaly’s sublime strike was the last word in a game which Senegal deserved to win against lacklustre and often cynical opposition.
Ecuador’s leveller from Moises Caceido in the 67th minute was only their second shot on target.
And their drab performance combined with injury problems on a big night for the country led to frustration and unsporting behaviour with widespread playacting.
Yet it was Senegal, managed by former Portsmouth and Birmingham City midfielder Alious Cisse who went ahead by winning a penalty.
Watford winger Ismaila Sarr was wiped out on the run by Piero Hincapie.
He then won the battle of nerves with Hernan Galindez to keep his fixed eyes on the keeper while he planted the ball in the bottom right corner of the goal.
Ecuador did pull back through sloppy Senegalese marking at a corner when the Africans failed to spring their offside trap in time and Caicedo was unmarked a yard out to direct home a flick-on.
Kouliably’s Stamford Bridge teammate Edouard Mendy had little to do in the Senegalese goal bar picking the ball out of the net at the equaliser.
Should the pair go onto face England they will face clubmates Mason Mount and Raheem Sterling on the opposite side of the pitch.
He did paw away a corner in second-half injury time as Ecuador mounted a late charge to go through.