Shock defeat for Scorpions:- Algeria win 2-1
Thursday, March 01, 2012
Despite all the support, encouragement and hype surrounding its first competitive game under new coach Peter Bonu Johnson, the Scorpions of The Gambia again left fans and the entire populace angry after a stuttering performance at home to Algeria in Banjul on Wednesday.
President Jammeh had granted a request made by the Gambia Football Association (GFA) and declared Wednesday a half-day, while urging Gambians to turn up and cheer the boys as they face the Desert Foxes in the first leg of the first round AFCON 2013 qualifiers. The fans answered the call of their president and filled the 30,000-seater Independence Stadium to its brim for the first time since the team’s last home defeat in a 2-0 loss to Guinea Conakry in 2007, but all that they got was to see their team surrendering a five-year unbeaten home record, conceding two goals within two minutes and going down 2-1 to the North Africans.
Now, Peter Bonu Johnson and his side face an uphill battle to get through to the second and final round of qualifiers. They need to do what none of their predecessors have managed before in the past, winning an African Cup qualification game away in order to turn the tie around. They need to win 2-0 in Algiers in June or at least a 3-2 or above victory to stand any chance of progressing.
Momodou Ceesay scored a beauty of a goal in the 25th minute, totally against the run of play. That goal seemed to reinvigorate the Scorpions but a total capitulation in the second half cost them dearly as Antar Yahia scored from a yard out after a Musa Camara howler before danger man Sofiane Feghouli smashed home a volley to secure a deserved win.
The Gambian team started on the back foot and lacked the determination they have always shown in previous home games. The minister of Youth and Sports Hon. Alieu K Jammeh alongside Hon. Mamburrey Njie, Hon. Fatim Badjie, Hon. Fatou Lamin Faye, Hon. Fatou Mass Jobe-Njie and the secretary general Njogu Lamin Bah among others were part of the dignitaries present at the stadium.
Minister Jammeh said: “First of all we thank the president His Excellency for all the support and efforts we have made towards this game. But we feel very bad about this defeat because the entire government was here to give these boys the encouragement and we were hoping to beat them so that we can qualify to the Nations Cup and the World Cup. I agree that we have not seen the determination in the boys (like in previous games) despite all the encouragement.”
Gambia was lucky not to have gone behind in the 21st minute when left-back Djamel Eddine Mesbah of Italian champions AC Milan smashed a 30-yard effort against Musa Camara’s post. Nottingham Forest midfielder Adlene Guedioura slot home the rebound on the edge of the box but his effort was ruled offside by the assistant referee after Malian referee Koman Coulibally had already blown for a goal.
“I don’t know what happened with the disallowed goal unless I saw a replay,” Algerian coach Vahid Halilhodzic who also coached the Ivory Coast national team, French clubs Lille, Rennes and PSG told reporters at a press conference after the game. “Until I see the replay, I can make an opinion on it,” he said.
The Scorpions at the other end had a strong appeal for a penalty turned down by the referee after Ousman Jallow was brought down in the box before the Algerians cleared. However, the resulting throw-in resulted in the first goal. Momodou Ceesay held off his marker, bamboozled him, turned him inside-out and slotted a low drive into the bottom corner of the net with his weaker left foot on the turn to send the entire stadium into raptures.
Ous Jallow released Sanna Nyassi on the half-hour mark after a good work down the right side of the Algerian defence but the Montreal Impact wing wizard who didn’t have his best of nights on the day under pressure from former Celtic defender Madjid Bougherra scooped the ball over.
Algeria continued to dominate but chances were limited at either ends until a succession of free-kicks in the Gambian defence saw forward Mohammed Amine Aoudia hit the Scorpions post for the second time in the game on the stroke of halftime. The danger though was averted as the Gambians went into the break with their lead intact.
Algerians started the second half also on the back foot but soon stamped their
authority on the game until the end. Seven minutes after the restart, they won
a corner which was swung into the Gambian box and after Gamtel keeper Musa
Camara seemed to have comfortably caught the ball, he dropped it and FC
Kaiserslautern defender and Captain Antar Yahia was just there on the line to
guide the ball home for the equalizer.
Musa apologised to his teammates immediately and signaled that the sun blocked his vision. But he never recovered from the psychological blow. “We conceded a bad goal but we have seen that the sun blocked the vision of the goalkeeper and before he realised to gather the ball, the Algeria player was there to score the equalizer,” Peter Bonu Johnson said of the first Algerian goal.
Just two minutes later, the Scorpions again failed to deal with another Desert Foxes set piece and the ball kindly fell to Valencia midfielder Sofiane Feghouli. The former French youth international comfortably controlled the ball with his chest before he released an unstoppable volley for the winner. “I congratulate my boys for the victory because they deserved it,” the former Yugoslavia player Halilhodzic who is known for being a great disciplinarian said. “We dominated this game from start to finish and we deserved to win the game.
“When I took over from Adelhak, we decided to form a team that can compete with the best and compensate for the team’s failure to qualify for the 2012 Nations Cup by securing a place in the next African Cup of Nations and the world cup and I picked the players whom I believe have the right mentality to play for the team,” the former Nantes and PSG player who replaced the Algerian Adelhak Benchikha as coach following a humiliating 4-0 defeat to neighbours Morocco last June added.
“Ahead of this game, I tasked my players to do what no Algerian team has been able to do for a long time by winning a qualifying game away and today we have achieved that. But the condition of the pitch today wasn’t the best and if not we would’ve win with a bigger margin,” Halilhodzic who was speaking via an interpreter said.
Following Algeria’s second goal, Peter Bonu Johnson replaced Ebrima Sohna with Real de Banjul’s Babucarr Savage to the dismay of the fans who jeered to show their anger and disapproval of the coach’s decision. Moments before, the former Gambia Ports Authority coach had sent in New England Revolution’s Abdoulie Kenny Mansally in place of Sanna Nyassi. But the former Real de Banjul player’s best contribution to the game was when he sent in a last minute free-kick into the Algerian area that was nearly turned in by the outstanding Mamadou Futty Danso but was blocked by a sea of Algerian legs. Futty was one of few Gambians who played a serious game yesterday.
Bonu’s final substitution saw him replace Djurgarden right-back Kebba Ceesay with Real Zaragoza’s Saihou Gassama who plays in the fourth tier of Spanish football with the Aragon side’s reserve. Again fans booed Bonu’s decision chanting for experienced names like Njogu Demba-Nyren and Aziz Corr-Nyang who were both left on the bench throughout the game.
When quizzed on the lack of team spirit and determination shown by his players at the post-match press conference, Bonu Johnson, who paused for some seconds –probably because he wasn’t expecting the question- gave the same excuse voiced by former coach Paul Put: “lack of time.”
“Most of this players arrived just day before yesterday (Monday) and it was very difficult for them to recover in time for the game and we couldn’t also work with them for a longer time. But we can still go to Algeria and turn the tie around so we cannot throw in the towel now,” Bonu Johnson added.
But whether the Scorpions can travel to Algiers in June and secure an unlikely 2-0 result there remains to be seen. However, one thing is certain: Another lackluster performance like this by the Scorpions in Algeria could result in an even humiliating result.
Author: Baboucarr Camara