Host Gabon punished a first half lack luster performance by The Gambia to push through two goals, one each half, before Gambia could pull one back to surrender the leadership of Group D in Libreville.
Denied the services of top striker Assan Ceesay and midfield maestro Sulayman Marreh, both knocked down by Covid-19, Coach Tom Saintfiet fielded Musa Barrow as lone ranger in the attack and packed the midfield with veterans. But the first half showed The Gambia outclass in possession and aggressiveness and with Denis Bouanga’s 6th minute goal for Gabon, the visitors were rudely awoken to the task at hand. The misery of the first half was capped minutes after resumption when a relatively dull Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang fetched the second goal in the 58th minute. Gabon went on to create chances but the Gambia defended well and grew stronger as the second half progressed. Tom Saintfiet paraded Steve Trawalley, to many rather too late, but his flash of brilliance left the Gabonese players as mere bystanders to connect Bubaccar Jobe who pulled a consolation for The Gambia in the 72nd minute to make it 2-1. Gabon now takes control of the group with 7 points while The Gambia remains confined to second place, pending the outcome of the DR Congo (2 points) and Angola (0 points) on Saturday. Now, The Gambia must focus on the return match in Bakau on Monday where a win would restore parity with Gabon at least on points. A draw would not be ideal.