Konate’s equaliser denies united GB an opening victory

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Great Britain’s Olympic dreams suffered an unexpected setback at Old Trafford last night as Moussa Konate’s late equaliser for Senegal denied them victory.

Craig Bellamy put the hosts in front with a clinical volley early in the contest.

But Stuart Pearce’s men were then pushed onto the back foot by the Africans’ ultra-physical approach, which largely went unpunished by Uzbek referee Ravshan Irmatov.

Still, it did seem GB had weathered the worst until Konate struck eight minutes from time.

The hosts pushed forward frantically in search of a winner but they came no nearer than a Marvin Sordell effort that crashed against the bar.

And the greatest damage could yet be felt in the dressing room, with both Bellamy and Joe Allen needing to be checked after sustaining worrying knocks.

For all the doubters, who just could not get their head around the concept of a Great Britain team, even at a home Olympics, Old Trafford was still packed at kick-off. There were even repeated chants of ‘GB’ rolling round the stands at regular intervals as the two sides engaged in some early sparring.

And when Bellamy became the first GB scorer at an Olympics since Northern Ireland’s Patrick Hasty in 1960, there were genuine celebrations.

There was some justification for Pearce that all three overage players were involved. First Ryan Giggs sent over a cross from the right, for which Micah Richards challenged.

It was Steven Caulker who got his head to it though, nodding it down for Bellamy, whose first-time finish flashed past Ousmane Mane and into the far corner.

Not that GB should have been in front for long.

After spending the early part of his summer gaining experience as England’s No 3 keeper at Euro 2012, this was Jack Butland’s chance to shine.

The 19-year-old almost blew it though, directing a routine clearance straight to Sadio Mane, who chipped disappointingly wide with only Butland barring the way.

It would be fair to say Senegal like a tackle. And Ryan Bertrand was not the only GB player to get up gingerly rubbing part of the body, after being clattered.

Zargo Toure thundered a shot over before Saliou Ciss brought another decent save out of Butland and Rose cleared a powerful Abdoulaye Ba header off the line.

Ciss wiped Bellamy out on the edge of the area with a tackle that caught the striker around the knee. Home players charged in to express their disgust, yet GB did not even receive a free-kick.

The uplifting atmosphere was punctured by Konate eight minutes from time as he delicately lifted the ball over an advancing Butland to deny GB their win.

Earlier, Liverpool’s Luis Suarez helped Uruguay beat United Arab Emirates 2-1.

Elsewhere, World and European champions Spain fell to a surprise defeat in their opening match as Japan claimed a 1-0 win thanks to Yuki Otsu’s first-half goal.

New Chelsea signing Oscar helped Brazil beat Egypt 3-2 at the Millennium Stadium. Dmitry Baga gave Belarus a 1-0 win over New Zealand, Honduras held Morocco 2-2, Gabon and Switzerland drew 1-1 while it was goalless between Mexico and South Korea.