By Sulayman Bah
Gambia yesterday afternoon bowed out of the race to reach the 2022 Qatar World Cup after losing on both legs to Angola.
Highly derided for his defensive mind-set, Tom Saintfiet reversed to attacking, making alterations to his line up four days ago starting Yusupha Njie, Ebrima Colley, Sulayman Bojang with Dawda Ngum taking the place of the injured Simon Richter.
The switches meant Yusupha Njie helping the pairing of Colley and the workaholic Ebrima Sohna in midfield while Ceesay switches to the left flank with Lamin Jallow cutting in as a centre forward.
Angola’s Mathieus tested goalkeeper Alagie Modou Jobe with a long-range effort in the opening minutes which the Gambian keeper handled well.
Lamin Jallow would go into the referee’s booklet for failing to control his demons by throwing a tantrum. The referee didn’t take it lightly, flashing the yellow to the Salernitana’s winger.
Omar Colley overlapped to surge forward and his shot veered off wide target.
Angola tried dominating but it somewhat turned a balanced equation with a couple of chances thrown out of the window by either side.
The hosts won a set-piece after a decent one-twos resulting from a club-less Ebrima Sohna’s tackling and Freddy fired the resultant effort wide in the 28th minute.
Al Ahly’s Hermenegldo Da Costa Paulo Bartolomeu Geraldo again won another free-kick for The Giant Sables (Antelopes) from another Ebrima Sohna from-behind tackle, much the same angle the South-central African country scored their goal from in the first-leg in Banjul.
Geraldo –the executioner of it – again launched it wide to the consternation of home fans and delight of Gambians.
Gambia began instilling some urgency in their play and FC Zurich’s attacker Assan Ceesay would dilly dally his way on the left flank to dash around the corner to rifle in a teasing cross which Yusupha Njie chested before bulleting it on the handle of an Angolan player but the referee wasn’t interested.
Muhammed Mbye leapt to the Scorpions’ rescue in an otherwise impressive but busy first-half for the Mjallby’s centre-back having managed to force his way into gaffer Tom Saintfiet’s thinking to get a nod ahead of Anderlecht loanee Bubacarr Sanneh.
As the first-half wore on, Assan out-jumped his marker to poke in a glancing header from an Ibou Touray’s left-sided swing-in into the penalty box.
As Gambia began turning the heat occasionally having been prompted to chasing shadows for a while, Lamin Jallow had a chance to pick up either Assan Ceesay or Yusupha Njie in the box but opted to selfishly slam it at the Angolan net-minder who had no problems keeping it.
Just about then, Gelrado punished Gambia’s lacklustre defending at the approach of the hiatus, pouncing on a long pass on counter-attack, controlling well to beat Omar Colley before latching it into the back of the net of an advancing goalkeeper Alagie Modou Jobe. The outcome meant an uphill task for the Scorpions.
Modou Jobe was again tested by Fabio Abreu who wriggled out of mass legs of defenders to plunder in an effort just at resumption of play.
Omar Colley couldn’t react on time after sticking his boot on the ball from a scramble in the box but the opposition goalie reacted well in the 56th minute.
Tom Siantfiet threw in fresh-legs Muhammed Badamosi who after coming on nearly scored with his header but Angola’s Toni rose to the billing of what was an uphill task.
17-year-old sensation Zito Luvumbo was brought on to replace Geraldo as Gambia responded with switching of Dawda Ngum to assist Ebrima Sohna in the middle of the park.
Muhammed Badamosi launched an overhead volley but it flew wide the crossbar.
Baboucarr Jobe replaced Lamin Jallow to beef up the Scorpions attack headlined by Assan Ceesay. It paid off. Badamosi controlled to head to Ceesay who whipped it in for a 1-1 tie.
Just about two minutes later, the burning fire in Gambia was extinguished when Fabio Abrieu had his moment after flurry of missed chances, poking it to the back of the net for a 2-1 score on the heels of a mix-up in the Scorpions backline.
Freddy would later send in a nerve-wracking shot that rattled on the crossbar of Gambia.
The Scorpions now have Djibouti to play 6th October 2019 for the Afcon.
By Sulayman Bah