Honda the hero as Japan hit back to draw with Senegal
Share of the spoils comes for the two sides in Group H clash
Midfielder Keisuke Honda came off the bench to salvage a 2-2 draw for Japan against Senegal yesterday with the result keeping both sides in control of their own destiny for qualifying for the knockout stages of the World Cup.
Veteran Honda, 32, who became the first Japanese player to score in three different World Cups, replaced Shinji Kagawa in the second half with his team down 2-1 and fired the equaliser in 12 minutes from time after an error by Senegal goalkeeper Khadim N'Diaye.
Senegal thought they had claimed all three points as Moussa Wague drilled the ball home in the 71st minute. This had come after Sadio Mane's first-half opener was cancelled out by Takashi Inui's curling shot.
But Honda ensured things ended level and leaves both sides on four points after two games.
If Japan and Senegal win their final games on Thursday against respectively Poland and Colombia then they will reach the last 16.
"They were avoidable goals, that's clear," Senegal coach Aliou Cisse said in a blunt assessment of his defence. "The best team was Japan, we have to admit that."
"We didn't play a great game but we didn't lose... I believe... I have confidence. Our team has the quality to face Colombia.
Senegal had gone ahead in the 11th minute, although there was an element of luck to their opener.
A poor headed clearance landed right at Youssouf Sabaly's feet and although goalkeeper Eiji Kawashima managed to parry the defender's stinging shot from the left, the ball rebounded into the net off Mane's knee.
Japan regained composure and responded with a well-taken goal with their only shot on target in the opening period to level.
Yuto Nagatomo controlled a long pass with a deft first touch before rolling the ball into the path of Inui, who cut in from the left and fired a curling shot home.
Senegal appeared to step off the gas towards the end of the half, and the effects were still evident after the restart, as they resorted to long-range efforts that failed to test the Japanese goalkeeper.
Wague appeared to have ended Japanese hopes as he drilled Sabaly's low cross into the top of the net to send Senegal's supporters into raptures.
But Japan were not done and hit back again through midfielder Honda, who collected Inui's pass and prodded into an empty net after goalkeeper N'Diaye stepped off his line and failed to punch the ball away.
"It was a tough match and we knew it was going to be tough," Japan coach Akira Nishino said.
"I evaluate it as a very good point. Senegal is a tough team and this result I hope will lead to success in the next match."
Updated: June 24, 2018 10:45 PM