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Thursday , August 13 2020

Japan hold Senegal to blow Group H wide open

England move into last 16 with Belgium

NIZHNIY NOVGOROD, Russia, June 24, (AFP): England recorded their biggest ever World Cup finals win by thrashing an ill-disciplined Panama 6-1 on Sunday to breeze through to the knockout stage after two games.

A hat-trick from captain Harry Kane — which means he is now the leading scorer in the tournament with five goals — two from John Stones, his first ever in an England shirt, and a beauty from Jesse Lingard completed the crushing victory.

The result also confirmed Belgium’s qualification for the knockout stage and means Panama exit the tournament alongside Tunisia.

The records tumbled for England on an easy afternoon by the River Volga.

The rout was the first time England have scored more than four goals at a World Cup finals since winning the tournament in 1966.

It was the first time in England’s history they have managed five goals in a first half and Kane became the first England player to score a World Cup hat-trick since Gary Lineker in 1986.

It is also the first time they have qualified for the knockout stage since 2010, and the biggest victory so far at this tournament.

Intriguingly, it also means they are level on points, goal difference and goals scored with Belgium in Group G. The two sides meet in Kaliningrad on Thursday.

Despite the result, England started slowly and it was Panama who should have scored first in the fifth minute when Anibal Godoy blasted high and wide after the Central Americans carved open England’s defence.

England took the lead in the eighth minute when John Stones powered home a header from a Kieran Trippier corner, held up by the referee because of wrestling and pushing by the Panamanians, something which was set to become a theme of the match.

England extended their lead from the penalty spot in the 22nd minute after Lingard was brought down in the box by two defenders.

That opened the floodgates.

Lingard scored the game’s best goal in the 36th minute, a 20-yard curling shot past a helpless Jaime Penedo, then Stones added his second four minutes later, another header, following an intricate England free-kick.

Following Panama complaints, the goal was referred to VAR for offside but allowed to stand.

Kane then scored his second penalty in first-half injury time after he was almost farcically wrestled over at a corner, despite further Panama complaints.

At that stage, Panama, who received five bookings in their first match and three more here, threatened to implode, so bad was their lack of discipline.

Kane’s hat-trick was completed in bizarre fashion in the 62nd minute after a Ruben Loftus-Cheek deflected off the English captain’s heel into the net.

Again, the referee checked with VAR for offside, but once more the goal stood.

The second-half was largely an anti-climax, with Jordan Henderson and Raheem Sterling going close to making it seven.

However, the biggest cheer of the day was reserved for the 78th minute when Felipe Baloy scored Panama’s first ever finals goal.

Substitute Keisuke Honda equalised with 12 minutes left as Japan twice pegged back Senegal in a thrilling 2-2 draw on Sunday that leaves World Cup Group H wide open.

Midfielder Honda was the hero for Japan, scoring the deserved leveller after goalkeeper Khadim N’Diaye flapped at a cross.

Senegal, who reached the quarter-finals in the country’s previous World Cup appearance in 2002, needed just over 10 minutes to go in front.

Japan failed to deal with a right-wing cross with Genki Haraguchi nodding the ball straight to Senegal defender Youssouf Sabaly in the box.

He fired at Eiji Kawashima and the goalkeeper made a mess of it, punching the ball into the lurking Liverpool star Sadio Mane.

The ball bounced off the striker and into the net for his first goal at this tournament — cue raucous Senegal celebrations with Khadim N’Diaye racing the length of the pitch to join in.

This match was billed as the pace and power of Senegal against the tactical and technical nous of Japan, who took a gamble and replaced Vahid Halilhodzic with Akira Nishino as coach just weeks before the World Cup.

It appeared to pay off when the unfancied Asians stunned 10-man Colombia 2-1 in their opener, and on 34 minutes they were level with Senegal when Takashi Inui bent the ball wonderfully into the bottom corner.

Backed by a vocal Japanese following who never stopped singing and with the locals also on their side, Japan were now the better side after a nervous start.

Mane found himself at left-back at one point as the Blue Samurai threatened to slice their way through, in what was growing to be an absorbing contest in the warm Yekaterinburg evening.

Aliou Cisse, Senegal’s likeable coach and their skipper in that World Cup run in 2002, sent his substitutes to warm up five minutes into the second period as Japan began the half the better.

Working down the Africans’ left side, the 26-year-old talisman Mane was only a sporadic danger.

Japan should have taken the lead on the hour but Yuya Osako, the match-winner against Colombia, somehow missed the ball when unmarked inside Senegal’s six-yard box.

Inui then struck the bar from distance after the Senegal defence went AWOL.

On 71 minutes, Japan allowed a scuffed cross to go right across their goal and defender Moussa Wague arrived all alone at the far post to grab what looked like being an unlikely winner.

But Honda, the former AC Milan midfielder who had only been on the pitch six minutes, hit the late equaliser to leave Group H up for grabs.

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