The atmosphere inside Old Trafford last night was one which would have suited a testimonial or Twenty20 cricket match, there was a real family feel to the evening, which was great. In fact in many ways, it was a little like watching the England Cricket Team, in the sense that the players were from England and Wales.
In the first half, Team GB's midfield looked good with Craig Bellamy linking up well, while Ryan Giggs was as cool as a cucumber and showed real class and why Stuart Pearce made him his captain.
Unlike during the England games that had been played at the Theatre of Dreams in the past, there no sense of expectancy for Team GB, no pressure and everyone inside the stadium seemed genuinely excited to see history being made and Craig Bellamy put his name in the history books in the 20th minute. The Welshman half-volleyed home from 10 yards after a Ryan Giggs free-kick which the Liverpool striker won was headed half clear - Great Britain's first Olympic goal for 52 years.
Goalkeeper, Jack Butland did not have too much to do although Senegal did have two great chances to score and especially after Butland gifted Sadio Mane the chance to equalise but the striker could not take advantage of the Birmingham City keeper's mistake, pathetically chipping his effort wide - Butland though, looked just as disappointed with himself as if he had scored. Up top, Daniel Sturridge looked understandably tired and out of sorts before being replaced at half-time by Marvin Sordell.
The Senegalese game-plan was clear from the start - they intended to use their massive size advantage, an advantage which even made Micah Richards look small, to bully the home team and this tough tackling or fouling approach was evident right up until the final weather. The crowd at times, were flat but they were soon woken up after a bad tackle on Swansea City and Team GB full-back Neil Taylor by Pape Ndiaye Souare on 37 minutes, a foul which saw the first yellow card of the night.
In the second half, Senegal's crunching challenges were flying in from the word go - it was with great surprise that the Africans managed to finish the game with 11 players on the pitch in a tournament which has already seen three red cards. For the hosts, Captain Giggs continued to show his vast amount of experience but it was still somewhat surprising that the Manchester Untied legend at the grand old age of 38 was given the full 90 minutes - especially when Scott Sinclair was waiting in the wings. Sinclair who spent the whole of last season playing out on the left for Swansea may of thought he was going to get his chance with just over 10 minutes remaining when Danny Rose seemed to signal to the bench that he was is need of coming off. It was however, goalscorer Bellamy who made way but for Southampton's Jack Cork.
Bellamy, who was still suffering after an absolutely awful, bone crunching chop by Senegal centre-back Saliou Ciss just inside the Senagalese penalty area. This stonewall penalty was not given and the player was left unpunished, a truly disgusting decision by the match officials - would this have been seen by one of UEFA's baton-wielding extra officials? Who knows but if the penalty was given and converted then surely that would have been game, set and match for Stuart Pearce's men. As it was, Bellamy, who worked tirelessly throughout was given a standing ovation as he limped off the pitch (surely a first for any Liverpool player at Old Trafford); earlier on in the evening, he like Micah Richards was booed for their club connections by the Manchester crowd.
A mere three minutes had passed since Team GB's potential match-winner had departed when Senegal grabbed a well-taken and well-deserved equaliser with a neat finish from Moussa Konate after Richards' positioning was questionable. This set up an interesting last 10 and for the first time in the game, the English and Welsh players looked like they really wanted it, showing moments of great pace and invention. Richards headed a Giggs free-kick straight at Senegalese goalkeeper, Ousmane Mane and after some fantastic work from Arsenal's Aaron Ramsey on the left, Marvin Sordell cannoned an effort against the bar from close-range, much to the disappointment of the now very animated and vocal crowd.
The game was now more like basketball, end-to-end action with both sides coming close to finding a winner. Sadio Mane found himslef with a free-header but his effort went well wide, with Butland left stranded.
The match came to an end with 1-1 probably a fair result, although Team GB can feel slightly grieved they were not given the protection they might have been by the officials. The hosts now face United Arab Emirates on Sunday night at Wembley Stadium, while Senegal entertain Uruguay earlier the same evening.
image: © joncandy