by Richard Brook

Team GB threw away an opening game win, in London 2012, in the summer heat at Old Trafford. Britain looked to have wrapped up the match with a well hit finish from Craig Bellamy, who was booed by the Manchester United contingent, early on for his Liverpool allegiances. Although extremely unfortunate not to get a penalty for a poor challenge on Bellamy, Team GB have only themselves to blame as resting on their laurels, with a one goal advantage and naïve defending cost them dearly, in the shape of Moussa Konate’s late equaliser.

In the early exchanges both sides struggled to hold on to the ball for more than two or three passes, as good closing from both teams resulted in passes going astray. It was Team GB that settled into a rhythm first, although goal mouth action was at a premium. When the first chance did come it fell to Senegal. A left wing cross from Saliou Ciss found Ibrahim Balde in the box, but he was crowded out and his effort looped harmlessly into the arms of Jack Butland.

As was the case in the second half of the warm up match with Brazil, Team GB were allowed a large amount of passive possession but lacked the penetration required to make it count.

At the midway point of the first half all that changed as Ciss dived in on Bellamy on the right wing. Giggs swung the resulting free kick in left footed. The ball rebounded out from the pack at the far post across the penalty area and found Bellamy unmarked to smash the ball back across the goal, into the net, leaving Mane, hopelessly out of position and with no chance.

Almost immediately Balde tried to find a little magic, in response, as he tried a spectacular overhead kick, but his shot was nowhere near the target. The match marks Senegal’s Olympic football debut and had this strike been their first ever Olympic goal it would have been what dreams are made of. Moments later Steven Caulker was required to make an inch perfect block, in the area to prevent Sadio Mane testing Butland.

Team GB’s keeper almost gifted the Senegalese an equaliser, as he scuffed a pass lazily straight at Sadio Mane, who lofted the ball over the on-rushing keeper, keen to atone for his error, and wide of the post to the understandable relief of Butland.

Souare went from the sublime to the ridiculous in the space of ten seconds. The sublime: A neat back-heel down the touchline, which was returned slightly short. This brought the ridiculous: He went in hard, with studs showing on Neil Taylor and was immediately and correctly booked. It was a night for tougher tackling than would normally be expected at international level, but this challenge really was a step too far.

Great vision from Ryan Giggs saw Daniel Sturridge released, by a lofted through-ball, but the angle of the ball and the swiftness of the Senegal keeper forced the striker to take his shot from a wide position, while off balance and the effort went well wide.

Early in the second half, Butland was down sharply at his near post to push Balde’s effort out for a corner. In truth the Birmingham City prospect would have been disappointed had the shot beaten him, although he may have seen it late.

Much like the first half, the pattern of the early stages of the second half was that of two teams that could only keep hold of the ball when the side defending were not pressing. As soon as pressure was applied possession was gifted away.

Ciss hit a stinging shot straight at Jack Butland at head height, and the stopper parried the attempt out for a corner. The set piece was swung over from the left and met with the head of Abdoulaye Ba but Danny Rose was on hand to clear the effort with a header of his own.

The introduction of Aaron Ramsey briefly sparked a new-found attacking drive in Team GB. Ramsey came on  due to an injury to Welshman Joe Allen who was wrongly listed in the official programme as English.  The attack petered out, however as first Giggs then, more tamely Bellamy, played the ball across the six-yard box with no one to apply the final touch.

In the 70th minute Bellamy was clattered in the box by Ciss, unbelievably the referee and assistant failed to give as obvious a penalty as you will ever see. Taylor reacted angrily towards the referee’s assistant and both sides became embroiled in heated exchanges.

With just eight minutes remaining Moussa Konate, made the penalty call all the more important, as he latched on to a neat through-ball and finished routinely past Butland. Team GB had their defenders caught trying desperately to get back, having piled forward to attack a corner, leaving themselves naively exposed at the back given the slender nature of their advantage.

Either side could have won it late on as Marvin Sordell rattled the cross bar, following good work by Ramsey down the right flank. At the other end Sadio Mane got a free header all wrong as the ball drifted harmlessly wide.

It was not to be for Team GB but on the balance of play a draw was the fair result. How costly the penalty decision and the late defensive lapse will prove to be, with group favourites Uruguay winning their opening fixture against UAE, only time will tell.