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Tuesday, October 3, 2023

AFCON U-20: Gambian defense remains airtight in semifinal victory over Nigeria

The Gambia will take on neighbors Senegal in the final of the 2023 Africa U-20 Cup of Nations on Saturday after the Young Scorpions defeated Nigeria 1-0 in Monday’s second semifinal. Adama Bojang followed up his hat-trick against South Sudan in the quarterfinals by scoring the match winner in the 7th minute to send Gambia through to a first ever AFCON U-20 final appearance for the country. Like Saturday’s upcoming opponents Senegal, the Young Scorpions have yet to allow a goal through five matches.

While Senegal had an easy time progressing past Tunisia in Monday’s earlier semifinal, Gambia had to grind it out against a talented Nigeria team but got off to a dream start. A stroke of good fortune arrived inside ten minutes when a pass attempt from the Nigerian defense came off the head of Kajally Drammeh and right into the path of Bojang who finished past goalkeeper Chijioke Aniagboso.

Gambia counted on their defense to finish the job with waves of Nigerian attacks being foiled. The Flying Eagles came close to leveling before the half hour mark when a long ball brought Gambia goalkeeper Pa Ebou Dampha far out of position but Ayuba Abubakar sent his shot just wide of the empty net.

The frustration continue for Nigeria. Gambia star central defender Alagie Saine did just enough in the 59th minute to prevent Ahmed Abdullahi’s finish from close range after a cross was knocked down outside the six-yard box. Saine and Dampha came up huge in the 77th minute when Saine blocked Benjamin Fredrick’s first shot with his head before Dampha managed to hold a second attempt from Fredrick.

The true moment of agony for Nigeria came late on when Dampha tripped up Abdullahi for a penalty kick that was eventually awarded in the 86th minute after a Video Assistant Referee review. Abdullahi stepped up and sent his spot kick off the post before the ball was cleared and Gambia managed to hold on despite a late red card to Haruna Njie, leaving the Young Scorpions jubilantly celebrating at the full time whistle while Abdullahi was left inconsolable.

Highlights are below.