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AFCON 2023: Senegal pounces at the right moments in victory over Gambia

Defending champions Senegal got off to a good start at the 2023 edition of the Africa Cup of Nations on Monday, defeating neighbors The Gambia by a 3-0 score in the Ivorian capital of Yamoussoukro to begin action in Group C. Pape Gueye’s early goal put the Lions of Teranga in the lead and Lamine Camara struck twice in the second half for Senegal who had little trouble after Gambia were reduced to ten men following a red card late in the first half to midfield enforcer Ebou Adams. Senegal take on Cameroon in their next match and The Gambia will look to recover against Guinea.

Gambia came out quick and nearly caught the Senegalese sleeping fifty seconds into the match when Alassana Manneh’s long range blast stung the gloves of goalkeeper Édouard Mendy. However, in the 4th minute the Lions struck when a pass down the right flank found striker Habib Diallo who crossed from the end line towards the far post. The ball eventually fell to Senegal star Sadio Mané before he picked out the late run of Gueye who had far too much room to pass the ball low into the net from the center of the box.

Like the earlier matches over the first two days of the competition, the team that snatched the lead took their foot off the gas pedal and it was a similar story with Senegal who allowed The Gambia to stay in the match. The Scorpions produced a couple of opportunities with their direct style of play but hopes of a comeback were dashed deep in first half stoppage time when a reckless challenge from Adams on Lamine Camara resulted in a red card following a Video Assistant Referee (VAR) review.

Senegal once again applied pressure in the early stages after halftime and took advantage of poor defending to double their lead in the 52nd minute. Camara made a run towards the Gambian penalty area and was on the receiving end of a pass from Ismaïla Sarr. The Metz player collected the ball with too much space and had time to look up and fire a low shot past Scorpions goalkeeper Baboucarr Gaye.

The Gambian team occasionally threatened the Senegalese defense but there was little trouble for the champions in a rather subdued affair. Late on the supporters in the stadium were treated to a moment of brilliance in the 86th minute from the 20-year-old starlet Camara. Substitute Illman Ndiaye made a run into the penalty area from the right wing and laid a pass off to the 2023 Africa U-20 Cup of Nations Player of the Tournament, who perfectly curled a sumptuous shot from distance into the top corner for an early Goal of the Tournament contender.

Highlights of the Group C opener are below.

Match Highlights

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