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Debutants Gambia continue with AFCON fairytale with quarters ticket

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Gambia players celebrate Musa Barrow's goal against Guinea

Debutants Gambia continued with their fairy tale run at the Africa Cup of Nations, hitting Guinea 1-0 courtesy of Musa Barrow goal in a game that both sides finished with 10 men after two late red cards.

The Scorpions who are making their first ever attempt in the African extravaganza showed grit and determination, to break a tough Guinea side and earn a last eight ticket.

Both sides had to finish the game with 10 men after two red cards in the final five minutes of the game. Gambian Yusupha Njie was sent to the locker room with two minutes of regulation time to play for a second yellow card after elbowing an opponent.

Guinea’s Ibrahima Conte was also shown a second yellow card in the second minute of added time, for a similar offense.

But, none of the two red cards could reduce the joy of the Gambians, who matches the feat achieved by Madagascar when they went all the way to the quarter finals in their debut tournament in 2019.

The Gambians were forced to switch their initial line up close to kick off, with head coach Tom Saintfiet disclosing that the team suffered food poisoning on match day.

Ibou Touray and Saidy Janko were both left off the match day squad after suffering food poisoning, according to the tactician.

“We didn’t have a good feeling about today because many of us had food poisoning, including me. I didn’t sleep, was up at the toilet all the time, vomiting and with diarrhoea. They are my heroes. It’s a real team, they’re not individuals but a team which plays together, with a dream, with a strategy, and each player is very disciplined and does everything to achieve this,” an emotional Saintfiet said after the match.

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For Guinea, it was evident that the absence of Naby Keita was always going to be a problem. The Liverpool midfielder, who skippers the Sylli Nationale had been a core side in their hunt for a round of 16 spot.

He had to miss the Gambia duel with a one match suspension after accumulating two yellow cards and his ansence was massively felt as they lacked their usual spark.

The first half was cagy, none of the two sides being adventurous enough. Gambia had two chances with Barrow’s long range effort saved by the keeper while Mohamed Bayo also had an effort at goal that was palmed away by the keeper.

In the second half, the intensity picked up a notch higher with both sides now eager to get a goal that would send them into comfort.

It was the Gambians who saw the back of the net first when Barrow was sent through with a brilliant pass from Yusupha Bobb. Barrow did brilliantly to turn away from his marker before unleashing a low shot that beat the keeper and into the net.

Guinea thought they had equalised after 77 minutes when Ibrahima Conte pushed a cross into the net at the back post, but his celebrations were cut short with the first assistant referee’s flag up for offside. The VAR confirmed as much.

As the game wore on, so did Guinea’s pressure to try and find the equalizer. The Sylli Nationale hit the woodwork twice in added time, before they had their red card. Their fight for a late equalizer ended all in vein as Gambia held on for history.

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