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AFCON 2021: Debutants Gambia stun Tunisia to finish second in Group F

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Gambia celebrate with their fans after qualification

Second choice goalkeeper Baboucarr Gaye and striker Ablie Jallow were the heroes as debutants Gambia stunned former champions Tunisia 1-0 to progress to the round of 16 at the Africa Cup of Nations as Group F’s runners up.

Gaye saved a first half penalty while Jallow scored a 93rd minute winner as The Smiling Coast progressed to the knockout phases of the competition for the first time ever.

“I am almost speechless,” said Belgium-born Gambia coach Tom Saintfiet.

“To defeat Tunisia, one of the African giants, is a magnificent achievement. The Tunisians had problems with Covid, but so did we. They had much more possession than us, but our defence was outstanding and Ablie has now scored two superb match-winning goals,” added the tactician.

The North Africans had been ravaged by COVID, with 10 players out on isolation. They had to make a match day squad with only 17 players.

Tunisia however managed to break into the last 16 as one of the four best placed number three sides, having finished the group phase with three points.

The North Africans were off to a fine start in the match and despite a hands back approach in the opening few minutes, managed to have some efforts at goal.

In the 14th minute, Ali Abdi tried his luck with a shot from inside the box, but it ricocheted off a defender’s leg and spiralled inches wide off target.

Hamza Rafia then broke into the box In the 35th minute, and found some shooting space from a tight angle, but his effort came off the side netting.

Two minutes to the break, Tunisia were awarded a penalty and a brilliant opportunity to finally get their game going after Ellyes Skhiri was tripped inside the box by Gambia skipper Pa Modou. However, Saifeddine Jaziri stepped up and saw his penalty well saved by keeper Gaye.

Gambia players celebrate with keeper Gaye after he saved a penalty

In the second half, Gambia started well and Musa Barrow was a constant threat, first hitting a low shot that was saved by the keeper before his thunderous strike off a freekick came off the crossbar.

The Scorpions continued pinning the Carthage Eagles in their own half as they sought to get a goal and they did so in the third minute of added time when Jallow controlled the ball off a Barrow cross, before planting an unstoppable shot into the net on the half volley.

Meanwhile, Mali finished top of the group after a 3-0 victory over already eliminated Mauritania who bow out of the tournament after losing all their games, scoring no goal and conceding seven in three matches.

Mali’s Ibrahima Kone celebrates his goal against Mauritania

Massadio Haidara and Ibrahima Kone scored the goals for the Malians who finished the group phase with seven points, same as Gambia but with a better goal aggregate.

The Malian Eagles broke the deadlock in the second minute of the match off a frantic start after Haidarra struck on the half volley when Mousa Doumbia’s touch from a cross on the right found the scorer unmarked at the backpost.

Doumbia would play part in the second goal again four minutes after the break, this time winning a penalty after being brought down inside the box. Kone stepped up to slot home for his third goal of the tournament.

Kone could have completed his brace later on but his left footed strike from a tight angle rolled just inches wide with the keeper well beaten. Mohamed Camara also had a chance after some sweet and swift change of passes inside the box, but his shot skied over the bar.

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