The Gambia wrapped up its 2017 African Cup of Nations campaign with an impressive showing in Cameroon despite a 2-0 defeat at the Limbe Omnisport Stadium on Saturday. If not for their profligacy in front of goal, it could’ve turned out to be a different story.
But just as in the first leg in Banjul exactly twelve months ago, it again took an individual error to determine the outcome of this particular match. Instead of a player, this time it was the match official when he awarded a nonexistent penalty converted by Benjamin Moukandjo to give the Indomitable Lions the lead against the run of play. Indeed even the Cameroonian match commentator on the state broadcaster doubted the call, prompting him to saying that the Ghanaian referee succumbed to the pressure of the fans into awarding the spot-kick.
The first half was one of the most dominant play by the Scorpions for a very long time and one would be forgiven for thinking that the 35th minute opener would dampen their spirits, but they refused to budge and came into the second half determined to ensure parity. The Ghanaian official again pointed to the spot for a second penalty against The Gambia few minutes into the half but his assistant flagged for a corner and as a result he was forced to annul his earlier decision.
Karl Toko Ekambi headed in from a corner kick after 53 minutes to double Cameroon’s lead and despite frantic efforts to reduce the deficit, the hosts held on to book their place in the 2017 Afcon in Gabon. Mauritania’s 1-1 draw in South Africa had ensured Cameroon’s place in Gabon 24 hours earlier as Group M winners.
Despite finishing the campaign in bottom place, the future looks bright for the Scorpions based on the evidence of play on Saturday. With the team not involved in the 2018 World Cup, this will avail the authorities and technicians the time to continue the rebuilding and rebranding process before returning to international competition in a year’s time in preparation for the 2019 edition.
Much thanks to the head coach and his team of technicians, players and their families and clubs, the general football family for their consistent support and understanding. Same go to the media for accompanying us through this crucial period, and the government for the invaluable support and cooperation.
Long live the Scorpions
Long live The Gambia.