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Defending champions beat Mali to boost title ambition

Jan 13, 2011, 2:18 PM | Article By: Lamin Drammeh

The Gambia national U-17 team have made a remarkable recovery from their embarrassing 3-nil defeat against Congo to escape with a narrow 1-nil win over Mali in a terrible water-lodged pitch in Kigali yesterday afternoon.

Coach Lamin Sambou and his defending champions dashed the country’s hope of retaining the 2009 crown with an unconvincing performance in their opener last Sunday.

But the determined Gambian lads turned out in a totally different and spectacular fashion to register a hard fought win at the expense of the Mali U-17 who have crashed out of the Rwanda championship, after losing twice consecutively.

Yusupha Sarr’s 36th minute header separated the two West African sides in a rather tense atmosphere in Rwanda as the Baby Scorpions celebrated what was their first win in the campaign so far.

The Gambia could have added more goals to its name with a series of chances that fell to the likes of Musa Yaffa, Saloum Faal and inspirational captain Buba Jallow but the stars could only help the team to secure a narrow win.

The disappointed Malian side, on the other hand, could have broken the deadlock but all their efforts were frustrated by an outstanding Gambian defence and goalkeeper Baboucarr Sanyang in particular, who made some world class saves to deny the helpless and eliminated Malian team.

Mali, who had the better part of the ball possessions in both periods, were also tipped as a real title contenders, after going through an intensive training camp in Germany with a series of high profile friendly matches.

But better preparations for the West African outfit failed to pay any dividend as they suffered a first round elimination from the tournament by the Gambian team who made few chances from their team that lost to Congo three days ago.

The win that boosted the country’s hope of defending the CAF U-17 crown is seen as a huge step towards the Gambia’s qualification to the next U-17 World Cup finals to be hosted by Mexico this summer.

Next on the road for the Baby Scorpions is another crucial game when they come face to face with Ivory Coast in the last group B fixtures on Saturday, a game that would determine the two-time African champions’ fate in the eight-team tournament.

Many football followers believe the country’s qualification lies in its own hands.

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