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Gabon marches into the U-23 Championship final as the fairy tale continues.
12-06-2011
           
 
First semi-final of the CAF U-23 African Championship needed extra time to separate Senegal and Gabon in Tangiers. Substitute Andre Pocko Biyogho headed in the winner in extra-time to send his side into the final and confirm a place at next year’s London Olympic Games. Gabon pretty much grounded out a win to make he final and continued their fairy-tale run in the competition  
The goal in the 119th minute was born out of another counter-attack that characterised Gabonese play and Senegal knew they had been hit by a sucker punch when the Biyogho's header crossed the line. The Gabonese had started the more enterprising and had the ball in the back of the net after 17 minutes only to be ruled out for an infringement. Senegalese goalkeeper Ousmane Mane had misjudged a long ball which came off the post and in the melee; Diderot Lengoualama stabbed home the loose ball and wheeled away in celebration.
Gabon were more in control of a quiet first half that had few clear cut chances. The defences for both sides solidly stood in the way of the attacks. Gabon’s backline was well led by Nenet Ebanega who won virtually every aerial ball. Together with Ismael Abogho, Emmanuel Mba Ndong and Muller Dinda they neutralised the Senegalese threats. The other end it was the same story too with the tall Senegalese defenders Abdoulaye Ba and Sady Gueye dealing with high balls effectively. The play was as thus confined to the midfield and the delivery in the final third was most of the time lacking precision.
Mane looked in trouble again as he split a shot from Lionel Yacouya and then picked up a knock as he tried to make up for his error. Senegal returned from the break intend on utilising the left flank more. Oumar Niasse and Saliou Ciss were soon carving out opportunities from the left flank but the final ball was disappointing.
Stephane Badji found himself in acres of space but hurried his shot as Senegal opened a dominant period midway through the second half. With the stalemate seemingly unbroken the two coaches made changes with Paul Tendeng replacing Abdoulaye Sane in the 73rd minute. Gabon brought in Jerry Obiang for Romuald Ntsitsigui the man who had scored the disallowed goal. The substitutes injected more sharpness and pace into the game but the goal was not forthcoming
Senegal’s Kara Mbodji could have won it for his side in the 90th minute but he blazed his effort over the cross bar with the goal empty at his mercy. Gabonese goalkeeper Nick Moundounga could only parry a cross to a Senegalese player whose shot was blocked with the rebound falling kindly to Mdodji in the box and his miss send the match into extra time.
Gabon proved a tough test once again after their heroics against Cote d’Ivoire and were solid and in the 119th minute substitute Andre Pocko Biyogho header the winner from a corner kick with hardly any time left on the clock
Neither side really dominated possession but both had solid defences and most of the play happened in the midfield with Senegal just shading the chances slightly. Gabon though proved to be the masters of counter-attack football and always looked dangerous whenever they ventured into Senegalese penalty box.
After  the goal there was hardly any time for Senegal to come back but the young Lions of Teranga will have two more chances to try and qualify for the London Olympic Games while Gabon now eyes a double. Gabon now has a chance to win the first CAF U-23 Championship and is already assured a place at the Olympic finals.
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