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Lee Power, at Old Trafford, Manchester
Thursday, July 26, 2012
Match report: Team GB 1 Senegal 1
Harrow-born Marvin Sordell was so nearly GB’s late hero as they began their Olympic campaign at Old Trafford.
Having seen a first-half lead wiped out by muscular Senegal, the hosts came within inches of victory when 21-year-old Sordell saw his shot come back off the crossbar two minutes from time.
But it was not to be as the match ended in a 1-1 draw, lending weight to the David Beckham Fan Club.
Leytonstone’s most famous lad made an early name for himself here, in the number seven shirt of Manchester United, before spreading his wings for Madrid and Los Angeles. But he was overlooked by coach Stuart Pearce for the 2012 Games.
Two of the three over-age players picked by Pearce combined for GB’s first Olympic goal in 52 years as captain Ryan Giggs floated in a free-kick and fellow Welshman Craig Bellamy steered home from eight yards when the ball fell into his path.
But the third, Micah Richards, was caught napping nine minutes from time as Moussa Konate ghosted in behind him to clip a well-weighted through ball over Jack Butland and draw Senegal level.
The capital was well represented by its new breed of Londoners, though, with Steven Caulker, born in Feltham and spotted while playing for Hounslow Borough as a 15-year-old, a calm head in the centre of defence and Southwark-born Ryan Bertrand – two months on from Champions League glory with Chelsea – impressing at left-back in a bright opening spell.
Both looked extremely comfortable on the ball and, combining with Tottenham’s Danny Rose further upfield, helped GB settle into a good early rhythm.
Patiently building from the back, as an excited crowd did their best to create a party atmosphere, the young Brits did not appear phased at all in the opening 15 minutes.
They did have a let-off when a deep cross found Ibrahima Balde at the far post, but Bertrand was on hand to make an important block.
Bertrand, who turns 23 on August 5, had to wait six years to make his Chelsea debut after signing in 2005, suffering a ruptured spleen in a youth team match, but proved a hit while on loan at Norwich.
Fans nicknamed him ‘Plastic’ but it had nothing to do with him being an adopted Canary and more to do with him being the namesake of a Belgian singer.
Plastic Bertrand had an international hit single with ‘Ca plane pour moi’, which featured in the 2010 film ‘127 Hours’ directed by Danny Boyle, he of Olympic Games opening ceremony fame.
It turns out it was actually sung by a gentleman by the name of Lou Deprijck, but there was nothing fake about the Chelsea youngster’s performance and Caulker was equally impressive, no doubt making his old teachers at Staines Preparatory and Lampton School very proud.
Caulker, eligible for Scotland through a grandmother, made a vital block on Sadio Mane, as he cut across the box, but the four-time borough 400m champion had too much ground to make up when Butland’s poor kick went straight to Mane.
Thankfully the Senegal striker wasted a golden chance as he chipped the ball over the advancing keeper, but wide of the upright.
Butland wasn’t even born when Giggs claimed the first of his many, many medals, but he made amends with a good save in the opening sages of the second half to keep out Balde’s shot.
Pearce had sent Sordell on for Chelsea’s Daniel Sturridge, for whom little seemed to go right, during the interval, but Senegal had a bit more purpose and Butland had to beat a stingy Saliou Ciss drive over the crossbar.
Rose nodded Abdoulaye Ba’s header off the line before Pearce was forced to send Arsenal’s Ramsey on for his injured Welsh counrtyman Joe Allen – who had been mistakenly identified as English in the match programme.
The Senegal tackles continued to fly in, though, and tempers boiled over when Bellamy was left in a heap by a crude challenge from Ciss, just inside the box.
GB’s penalty claims were ignored and, although the goalscorer was able to return after a quick rub of the ice bag, he soon made way for Jack Cork.
The son of former Wimbledon Crazy Gang member Alan, born in Carshalton just a year after their historic FA Cup win over Liverpool, the younger Cork had barely had a touch when Senegal got back on terms through Konate.
But GB went so close to regaining the lead and all three points when Sordell swung his left leg at Ramsey’s pass and lifted the ball over Ousmane Mane, only to see it rattle back off the woodwork.
GB: Butland, Taylor, Bertrand, Rose, Caulker, Cleverley, Allen (Ramsey 62), Sturridge (Sordell 46), Bellamy (Cork 79), Richards.