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Ekambi brace roars Cameroon’s Indomitable Lions into AFCON semis

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Cameroon players celebrate Karl Toko Ekambi's double

A double from Karl Toko Ekambi saw hosts Cameroon see off a stubborn Gambia side 2-0 at the Japoma Stadium in Douala to progress to the semi-finals of the delayed 2021 Africa Cup of Nations on Saturday.

After a goalless first half, Ekambi scored a quickfire brace in the second period, taking his tally for the tournament to five, one behind top scorer, teammate Vincent Aboubakar.

“I’m proud of the performance of the team tonight. Gambia are a difficult team to play against but we never gave up even when we struggled in first half. We kept working and we got the crack. It’s good, everyone has a role to play in this team,” an elated Ekambi said after the match.

Coach Toni Conceiçao was also pleased with the result and said they will keep the same momentum to try and see the title remain home.

“I am satisfied with my players who respected the instructions to go and win the match despite the missed opportunities in the first period. In addition to the victory, it was our match where the attack-defense balance was the most respected,” said the tactician.

Just like expected, Gambia played on the backfoot for most of the opening half where Cameroon commanded 77pc of the possession. They shielded their backline well, just like coach Tom Saintfiet had said in his pre-match presser.

Cameroon came close on several occasions, with Aboubakar looking for his seventh goal of the tournament.

Off a Momo Ngamaleu cross the striker’s attempt at a backheel finish was thwarted with a block from James Gomez, the ball skipping over the bar.

Aboubakar also had another chance when he picked out a cross inside the box, but his glancing header went inches wide. The skipper had another opportunity off a Samuel Oum Guet cross, but Gambia keeper Baboucarr Gaye made a brilliant close range block.

In the second half, Cameroon were off with vigour, knowing that they should not let the game roll beyond the regular 90 minutes.

Just four minutes in, they broke the deadlock when Ekambi glanced in a header from inside the box off a well weighted Collins Fai cross.

Fai had a chance for a goal himself four minutes later when he was played through on goal by Frank Zambo Anguissa, but his powerful shot from the right came off the side netting.

Gambia vs Cameroon

But Cameroon doubled their tally in the 56th minute, Ekambi completing his brace after running in the blindside of Gomez before scoring with a tap in from the backpost from Martin Hongla’s brilliant pass.

The goal had come just after Gambia had made a triple substitution with Saidy Janko, Pa Modou and Mohamed Badamosi all coming off for Ebrimah Darboe, Modou Barrow and Ebrimmah Colley.

Saintfiet had made three attacking changes to try and press Cameroon high to get the equalizer, but instead, his team conceded the second.

Despite the setback, Gambia tried to give a push and goalkeeper Andre Onana who had been a spectator for most of the game was made to work finally with a shot from range by Musa Barrow but he handled it well.

Cameroon also made changes as they sought to have fresh legs in attack, but they couldn’t add to their tally. They had however done enough to see them into the semis as a first AFCON title since 2017 looks more and more realistic.

Gambia, who were the lowest ranked team come into the tournament, go back home with their heads high after making it all the way to the last eight.

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