Midfielder Keisuke Honda came off the bench to salvage a 2-2 draw for Japan against Senegal, as both teams were locked at the top of Group H following an entertaining encounter at the Ekaterinburg Arena on Sunday.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 a bad error by Senegal goalkeeper Khadim N’Diaye.Senegal thought they had won the match as Moussa Wague drilled the ball into the top of the net on 71 minutes to make it 2-1 after Sadio Mane’s fortuitous first-half opener was cancelled out by Takashi Inui’s curling shot. But Honda ensured things ended level and deservedly so.The result leaves both teams, who beat Colombia and Poland respectively in their opening matches, on four points from two games and within reach of a spot in the last 16.ROBUST DEFENDINGSenegal began the match strongly and their robust defending neutralised any early threat that the Japanese front line posed, allowing their own attackers to push up in numbers.The Africans went ahead in the 11th minute, although there was an element of luck to their goal.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.Forward Ismaila Sarr, who troubled Japan from the start with his pace and power on the right wing, was unlucky not to double Senegal’s lead on 21 minutes as he volleyed into Kawashima’s hands from close range.Japan slowly regained composure and responded with a well-taken goal with their only shot on target in the opening period to level the score at 1-1.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 past a diving N’Diaye.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.They nearly paid for allowing their opponents to run at them, as Yuya Osako narrowly failed to connect with a ball across the box on the hour mark before Inui’s powerful shot struck the bar with the goalkeeper beaten.Wague appeared to have ended hopes of a Japanese comeback as he drilled Sabaly’s low cross into the top of the net to send Senegal’s supporters into raptures.But the Asians were not done and hit back again through Honda, who tapped in into an empty net after goalkeeper N’Diaye stepped off his line and failed to punch the ball away.
Stressing that a wicket-keeper has a vital role to play Stressing that a wicket-keeper has a vital role to play in leading a side to victory, Kirmani, who was here in connection with the recent Moin-ud-Dowlah Gold Cup cricket tournament, said he would like to contribute in whichever way he can to help improve the game in the country. The IPL T20 is a great platform for youngsters to showcase their talent and learn from seasoned players, said Kirmani, who played a crucial role in Indias historic World Cup win in 1983. “Its (IPL T20) a terrific platform to unearth talent, young talent who are on the bench to represent state level and then higher standards of the game and it gives an opportunity for those youngsters to share the dressing room with the world class players and to exchange some pleasantries and learn from those great players who they could emulate and put it into practice to help themselves,” he said. The IPL T20 also brings the best out of an individual if he can adapt himself to the three formats of Tests, one-day match and the T20, Kirmani said. “It brings out the best of an individual to adapt himself from a five-day game to a 50 over and then 20 overs. If one can adapt these three formats, it speaks about the quality of the individual. There is different thinking, approach in the three different formats. It brings the best out of a cricketer if he can adapt himself (to the three),” he said. Kirmani also said he cannot name anyone as the best player in contemporary cricket though he would have named Sachin Tendulkar had he not retired. “There is lot of fluctuation and it is very difficult to compare. Each one has its own style and technique. I would have immediately said Sachin Tendulkar if he had not retired,” he said. “There are many promising, young players who are in the making of high class, quality players who could become legends who can break some existing world records. At the moment, I dont see anybody who could be the best,” he said. He also recalled that the Moin-ud-Dowlah tournament provided him a spring board to reach higher levels of the game. PTI SJR RS ATK ATKadvertisement