By Own Correspondent – A decisive goal from Captain Saihou Gassama was all but enough for the Gambia national U20 team to qualify for the African U20 youth championship finals in Libya after beating Ivory Coast 1-nil at the Felix Houphouët-Boigny Stadium in Abidjan on Saturday.
The Gambian team, headed by local coach Lamin Sarr, that has progressed to the championship with a 2-nil win, on aggregate, over their West African counterparts, scored the only goal converted by Saihou Gassama from a spot kick.
The penalty came as a result of a lefty tackle on striker Alasana Camara from an Ivorian defender in the 43rd minute.
Not much was expected from the team, who endured a disappointing 1-nil win in Banjul a month ago but it was totally a different Gambian side in Abidjan, having managed to keep on hold their 1-nil lead for the remainder of a pulsating second period.
Coach Lamin Sarr, who endured huge criticisms when he failed to lead the U20 team to last year’s championship, should be given credit for his impressive management style.
He has been confirmed the second Gambian local coach to guide the Gambian national U20 team to the African U20 youth tournament after coach Bonu Johnson three years ago.
The Gambia made few changes from the previous squad such as star striker Buba Jallow, who was replaced by Cherno Njie in the starting line up.
Two other star players, Lamin Sarjo Samateh and Mamut Saine, who could not secure a place during the first-leg, have also regained their positions in the impressive Gambian team.
Trailing by a lone goal from the first leg held in Banjul last month, according to Caf online, an expectant crowd thronged the Felix Houphouët-Boigny Stadium to cheer up the Junior Elephants, but it turned out to be a ‘Black Saturday’ for Ivorian football as coach Alain Gouaméné and his charges failed to deliver.
The hosts had the better side of the exchanges in the early stages of the match but the likes of Vamouti Diomande, Ibrahim Sissoko and Junior Tallogadji fumbled when it mattered most.
The Darling Scorpions were bronze medalists at the 2007 edition of the biennial tournament held in Congo.
Libya will host the final tournament from March 18 to April 1, 2011.