The gallant Scorpions on Saturday broke the myth surrounding the star-studded Algerian giants by daring to play the North African giants like equals and responding to them like ordinary peers. The Gambian side produced flair and showed signals of an emerging new team of players eager to impress on international duty
When the over-an-hour long delayed match kicked off, all eyes were on Riyad Mahrez and his mesmerizing ball skills but the Manchester City star could rarely venture out of his shell to cause damage. He was widely put in check by the tantalising skill and brute strength of the Gambian defenders.
Instead it was his compatriots Nabil Bentaleb and more importantly, Baghdad Bouneddjah who carried Algerian’s hope of another three points in this Match Day Two of the qualifiers. It was never to be. After Baghdad scored in the 47 minute to break the deadlock that dragged from the first half of cautious display from both sides, The Gambia responded within two minutes to kick the match into gear. The comeback came through Assan Ceesay assisted by Lamin Jallow, ushering an entertaining half for the home fans who also enjoyed sterling contribution of late entrant Musa Barrow of Atalanta whom many wished has started the match with his consummating ball skills.
The Scorpions fell short of ending the almost five year winless home matches but the one point against Algeria and the confidence of both players and fans signaled the much needed hope in Gambian football. The match also raised issues as to whether Belgian Coach Tom Sainfiet is the perfect person to nurture The Gambia’s new generation.
“Too soon to make conclusions. Though I wonder why he kept Musa Barrow on the bench. He does not seem to be carried away by big names or the fans’ favorites.
This performance is not bad. If the boys can continue to be this brave, we surely will do well against Togo and Benin,” a local league club coach commented after the match. The Gambia will play Togo at home on October 10 in Math Day 3 of the qualifiers for CAN 2019. Only the group winner will make it to the tournament directly.
Algerian now maintain top place at 4 points ahead of the Togo-Benin match in progress as we went to press last night.