By Boris Esono Nwenfor
Sports Writer, kick442.com-Cameroon
The fairytale of the Scorpion’s of Gambia continues to unfold after the team had to come from a goal down to pick a draw against a strong Eagles of Mali.
Two penalty kicks from Ibrahima Kone (Mali) and Musa Barrow (Gambia) ensured that both sides maintained their unbeaten run on Matchday two played this Sunday, January 16 at the Limbe Omnisports Stadium.
The draw also means that Mali and Gambia are ensured of a place in the knockout phase with both sides on four points in Group F. Depending on the results on the last day, a third-best place awaits Mali or Gambia.
It was all Mali in the opening minutes of the game as they showed their power towards their Gambian counterparts.
Moussa Djenepro with the first chance of the game at the 2nd minute but flopped his effort. Djenepro was a tough not to crack at the left-wing for Mali with Gambia’s Noah Sundberg facing difficulty to contain the Sarspborg player.
Gambia who is having their first AFCON participation saw a dream start to their expedition with a 1-0 victory over Mauritania on Matchday one. Ablie Jallow with Gambia’s first AFCON goal and he was the player that his team was looking for to catch Mali off guard.
For Mohamed Magassouba’s Mali side, the team secured a famous victory over the Carthage Eagles of Tunisia to boast their hopes of a historic TotalEnergies AFCON campaign this year. The team had another glaring opportunity at the 16mins through Haidara but he send his effort just wide from the goal post.
Gambia will continue exerting pressure on the Malians and almost took the lead in the closing minutes of the game. At the 38mins, Ablie Jallow’s powerful free-kick was only kept out by the crossbar. The post has been the saviour of the Eagles as Mali would have been down in the encounter.
Mali will begin the second half with the same intensity they showed in the first half and almost took the lead. Haidara with another effort on goal but he was kept out after a fine save from goalkeeper Jobe Modou, one of the best players for The Gambians in the encounter.
Gambia will, however, not go down without a fight and kept their onslaught on the Malian defence. Assan Ceesay broke through the defence of Mali but couldn’t make something out of his effort.
Ibrahima Kone who had been marked heavily throughout the game finally broke through the defence of Gambia. He wiggled his way pass two defenders only to be fouled and after the intervention of the video assistant referee, a foul was given which resulted to a penalty for Mali.
Kone stepped up at the 79th minute and scored the opening goal of the encounter, his second goal for Mali in the tournament. The goal sent the Malian contingent on rapture as they were seeing their side qualifying for the knockout stage of the competition.
The drama was not yet concluded in the game as Gambia was awarded a penalty kick after referee Samir consulter VAR. One of the Mali players was judged to have handled the ball inside the penalty area. Musa Barrow of Bologna in Italy will step up at the 90th minute to make it 1-1, to the jubilation of Coach Saintfiet and the few Gambian supporters.
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