Senegal qualifies for World Cup via contentious replay

Senegal soccer players celebrate their win over South Africa at the Peter Mokaba Stadium in Polokwane, South Africa on November 10, 2017. (REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko)
Updated 11 November 2017
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Senegal qualifies for World Cup via contentious replay

POLOKWANE, South Africa: Senegal seized the second chance it was given by FIFA to qualify for the World Cup on Friday, beating South Africa 2-0 in a replay of a game it lost first time round last year.
FIFA ordered the qualifier to be played again because of match-fixing by the referee in the initial match in November 2016. At the center of FIFA’s decision was a penalty given against Senegal for a non-existent handball that helped South Africa win 2-1 12 months ago.
Senegal used the contentious replay at the same stadium in Polokwane in northern South Africa as the annulled game to seal its place at the World Cup for the first time since 2002.
Sadio Mane was pivotal in both goals. He set up Diafra Sakho for the opener in the 12th minute and forced an own goal by South Africa defender Thamsanqa Mkhize in the 39th.
“Thank you, South Africa,” Mane said. “It was not an easy game for us but we kept pushing.”
As Senegal’s qualification was confirmed at the final whistle, the Senegalese players huddled together and bounced up and down in celebration. Coach Aliou Cisse knelt and held his arms up. Cisse was captain of the Senegal team that made the quarterfinals of the World Cup in 2002, then only the second African team to get to the last eight.
That was the last and only time Senegal has made it to the World Cup.
Senegal joins Nigeria and Egypt as qualifiers for the 2018 tournament from Africa, so far. The last two qualifiers from Africa will be decided on Saturday. Either Tunisia or Congo and Morocco or Ivory Coast will make up Africa’s contingent in Russia.
Without FIFA’s intervention, Senegal’s group would have gone down to the last qualifiers next week, and all four teams would have still had a chance of qualifying. Burkina Faso and Cape Verde are the other two teams, both of whom were searching for a first-ever appearance at the World Cup.
Completing South Africa’s misery, it created more chances than Senegal in the replay but couldn’t make them count, hitting the crossbar in the first half and forcing a slew of saves from Senegal goalkeeper Khadim Ndiaye.
“All that talk doesn’t mean anything because they beat us 2-0 and they go to Russia,” South Africa coach Stuart Baxter said.
FIFA’s unprecedented decision to order the replay and give Senegal another chance came in September after the world body found Ghanaian referee Joseph Lamptey guilty of match-fixing. Lamptey was banned for life after FIFA found he was probably manipulating the game for betting rings. There was no involvement from the South Africa or Senegal teams. But the decision to replay a game because of fixing caused serious discontent among the three other teams competing against Senegal for a World Cup place.
South Africa decried the decision to strip it of its victory as unfair while Burkina Faso appealed FIFA’s decision to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, calling it “an abuse of power.” CAS has not announced any decision regarding Burkina Faso’s appeal and it’s unclear what would happen if sport’s highest court upholds the appeal.
In that case, Senegal’s celebrations might be premature.


Maurizio Sarri sets sights on Liverpool after West Ham stifle Chelsea

Updated 23 September 2018
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Maurizio Sarri sets sights on Liverpool after West Ham stifle Chelsea

LONDON: Maurizio Sarri laughed off suggestions that next week’s summit meeting with Liverpool is a “must-win” game after seeing Chelsea’s 100 percent Premier League record ended by stubborn West Ham in a 0-0 draw on Sunday.
Chelsea had won all five of their league matches before the weekend, going toe to toe with Liverpool, who beat Southampton on Saturday to make it six wins out of six.
The visitors enjoyed 72 percent of possession at the London Stadium but failed to break down a determined West Ham side, who created enough clear-cut chances to win the game themselves.
Sarri said West Ham, who beat Everton last week after losing their first four league games of the season, had been tough opponents, adding that his team needed to find a way to move the ball more quickly.
Turning his thoughts to Saturday’s match against Liverpool at Stamford Bridge, Sarri, in his first season in the job, said it would be tough to compete with a side that had been developing for three years under Jurgen Klopp.
“They are a step forward than us in this moment,” he said. “We have started to work all together 35, 40 days ago.
“So for us I think it’s a bit early. We have to work. We need to improve and then maybe in one year we will be at the same level of Liverpool.”
The Chelsea boss said he was unsure how many changes he would make for the midweek third-round League Cup tie, also against Liverpool.
Olivier Giroud won his battle with Alvaro Morata for a starting spot up front for Chelsea, keeping his place for the second Premier League match in succession.
But Marko Arnautovic, West Ham’s leading goalscorer this season, missed out after failing to recover from an injury he sustained in the victory against Everton last week.
Despite Chelsea’s control, the home side could have taken a lead against the run of play just before the half hour.
Felipe Anderson was quick to seize on a loose ball and played in Michail Antonio, who blasted over with his left foot.
That chance breathed new life into the home crowd and the players and Antonio drew a smart save from Kepa Arrizabalaga in the West Ham goal just two minutes later after a fine run from Andriy Yarmolenko.
N’Golo Kante nearly gave Chelsea the lead with a headed effort but the sides were goalless at the break.
The match fell into a similar pattern in the second half, with Chelsea dominating possession, but Giroud — picked for his more physical threat — struggled to make an impression.
The French World Cup winner was replaced 20 minutes into the second half by Morata, who went close to breaking the deadlock moments after coming on only to see Lukasz Fabianski pull off a stunning stop from close range.
With about 13 minutes to go West Ham had a wonderful chance to win the match, when the unmarked Yarmolenko headed just wide at the far post.
Fabianski pulled off another fine save as the clock ticked into injury time, diving to his left to deny substitute Ross Barkley and Willian blazed wide as Chelsea applied intense late pressure.
West Ham manager Manuel Pellegrini, who has managed to stop the rot with four points from the past two matches, said his side had to make their chances count.
“When you have such clear chances against big teams you must score one of them,” he said.
“And we had three clear chances before they created one chance but you must score.”