The Scorpions’ confidence in the Second Round of World Cup Qualifiers against strong favourites Ivory Coast has been dented a heavy blow after the boys from the smiling coast succumbed to a three-nil cushion by the Elephants on Saturday 23 March at the Felix Houphouet Boigny Stadium in Abidjan.
The Gambia were not busy at upfront, except for Momodou Ceesay, who had a short spell and was immediately replaced for Sulayman Marreh at the hour mark for half time.
Zico was plagued by a knock when he fell to the ground after a tough challenge in the air for possession.
The Scorpions went to the break goalless and the second half saw Gervinho function better at Gambia’s defence with a penalty he created after midfielder Yankuba Ceesay was adjudged to have caught him down.
The spot kick was converted by Wilfred Bony 49 minutes on.
Ivory Coast became buoyed with the goal and the Manchester City midfielder pushed harder as Scorpions gazed him run at goal.
He hit the side netting but later Sanna Nyassi athletically passed through a congested left area and elaborated too much for play.
Yaya Toure was to score at all account and fifty-seven minutes later, he registered his first-ever goal against The Gambia.
Gambia’s coach Luciano Mancini effected substitution in Hamza Barry for Saihou Gassama and Omar Colley for Abdoulie Mansally but dashing efforts for the Scorpions was the end results of the day as former Chelsea forward Solomon Kalu made his name in the accounts for the third and final goal for The Elephants.
A woodwork saved the visitors for a four-nil gap after new entrant Didier Ya Konan hit the bar.
At post-match press briefing, Gambia’s head coach Luciano Mancini said his boys put up good performance in the first half but “Gervinho was a big problem for the boys in the second half because he was the most dangerous player”.
Asked about The Gambia’s position in the rest of the qualifiers, Mancini said: “We are not good at this position because the boys played well but did not win; so the position is not good to qualify. The Ivorian players are physically fit than my boys and they have more techniques.”
The Italian however congratulated his lads for a brave fight in the first half but was quick to add that he missed some of his key players from the match as well.
Team captain Abdou Jammeh said the players were tired by the fact that, “travelling from Europe to Niger was very far and there was still fatigue in us and that took us time to settle down’.
T-Boy said the boys were playing as a unit because “we are mixed with some very young players who did not have any World Cup qualifying experience”.
Asked about the exclusion of Didier Drogba, the Scorpions captain said Drogba’s exclusion did not mean anything to them.
“We are only concerned about ourselves and our game plan because football is not about an individual,” he said.
The thirty-three thousand capacity stadium, despite not even half full, reverberated for the Elephants, while only a fraction of Gambians showed up.
The Gambia still maintain bottom of their Group C side while Ivory Coast stand a commanding lead on 7 points.