Goalkeeper Lamin Saidy saved two penalties as Gambia beat Tunisia 4-2 on post-match penalties at the Stade Cheikha Ould Boidiya in Nouakchott on Friday to clinch bronze at the Total Under-20 Africa Cup of Nations.
The game was forced to penalties after a barren stalemate in normal time and Saidy proved to be the hero for the Gambians who equalled their best ever performance at the tournament in 2007, when they also won bronze.
Saidy saved from Adam Karim Benlamine and substitute Hamdi Abidi to help his side clinch the trophy. Gambia’s only miss in the shoot out was from Habessi Achref who saw his penalty saved by substitute keeper Ahmed Laabidi.
Gambia’s penalties were converted by Momodou Bojang, Alieu Barry, Momodou Jallow and Adama Kanteh. Tunisia’s penalties were scored by Hassan Ayari and Mohamed Amine Ben Zeghda.
The Tunisians started off commanding most of the possession and taking full advantage of Gambia’s lack of concentration on possession. They however couldn’t make much use of the ball when they turned the tide in their favor.
In the sixth minute, Benlamine’s effort at goal with a shot on the outside of his foot as Tunisia pinched back possession from Gambia was awry as the ball went way wide.
In the 16th minute, Gambia keeper Saidy was called into action, being forced into an awkward save after Ramzi Ferjani hooked in a header at the backpost off a Zied Berrima corner.
On the other end off a swiftly executed move upfront, Gambia had a similar chance when off Wally Fofana’s corner, skipper Tijan Marr bounced a header over the bar with the keeper off his line after failing to collect the curving ball.
The Tunisians had their closest chance at goal in the 20th minute off a swiftly executed counter, Chiheb Labidi’s quick dummy releasing skipper Berrima but eventual shot was smothered behind for a corner by the hawkeyed Saidy.
The Gambians gradually grew into the game and saw more of the ball in the final 10 minutes of the half. However they couldn’t offer much threat upfront as their top talisman Bojang was double marked and didn’t have much space to move.
The second half started with as much intensity as the first half did with the Tunisians once again being the most active in the final third. Five minutes after the restart, Chawki Ben Hader seeing an effort from another Berrima corner go just over.
The two teams however could not sustain the tempo much, the fatigue from the gruelling tournament clearly having a toll on them.
Each made changes to their squads, but nothing much could change, the game heading straight to penalties. Tunisia made a goalkeeping change in added time, Elias Damergy coming off for Labidy for his first run out of the tournament.
What they said:
Gambia coach Mattar M’Boge
I am so proud of the boys and what they have achieved. Not many people thought we would go on to the semis, let alone win bronze after losing our first match against Morocco. But we kept on fighting and improving and we have been rewarded with a medal.
The future is bright for these boys and already my phone is full of messages. Hopefully they can take a step higher in their careers after this because we want to see them become pros and play for some of the top teams in the world.
Tunisia coach Maher Kanzari
It was a very tough game today obviously because both teams had that disappointment of not being in the final. But I am proud of my players and what we have achieved. Penalties are always about luck and today we were not lucky.
We have done well in the tournament and we have had a good three weeks here. We have picked lots of experience and now we are focused on the future.