The Gambia made a fairytale debut in the Africa Cup of Nations, defeating Mauritania 1-0 in Limbe to tie for first place in Group F.
After 10 minutes, Ablie Jallow scored the game-winning goal, controlling Musa Barrow’s pass with one touch before finishing from 25 yards with his second.
Mauritania rallied fiercely late in the first half but failed to challenge Gambian goalkeeper Modou Jobe severely.
The Scorpions have drawn level with Mali, who defeated Tunisia 1-0 earlier in the day.
The Gambia are the lowest-ranked team at the Cameroon Nations Cup, currently rated 150th, and will face Mali, who upset Tunisia in their opening encounter.
The Gambia has finally taken its position at the top table of the continental game, forty years after first attempting and failing to qualify for Africa’s most prestigious athletic event.
It was a proud occasion for the 2.5 million-strong nation, especially for defender Pa Modou Jagne, the squad’s longest-serving member who made his Gambian debut in 2006.
Jallow, 32, would have longed for a dream start, and it came true as he hammered home left-footed when little appeared to be on to leave Mauritania goalkeeper Boubacar Diop grabbing air.
The goal was a reward for The Gambia’s strong start, but as the first half progressed, they lost control to a Mauritania side that created chances through solid build-up play, only for their final strikes to be inaccurate or lack force.
The most recent call-up Mauritania rallied under French coach Didier Gomes Da Rosa, who was appointed only two months ago. Pape Ibnou Ba was busy for the Mourabitounes but failed to capitalise on crosses that came his way.
Given that this was Gambia’s first ever game in a big event (either an African Cup of Nations or a World Cup), this was an outstanding performance.
Tom Saintfiet’s team appeared to be the stronger team for the entire of the game, and he will be happy with the defensive resilience they shown when put under pressure.
It puts them in a strong position in Group F, as they are joint-top of the group with Mali, whom they will face on the second match day on Sunday.
The Gambia could have won just after halftime, but Sampdoria defender Omar Colley headed over when well-placed, and Ebrima Colley blazed over when again in a great position.
Musa fired a long-range strike two minutes into stoppage time, only for goalie Diop to make another good save to maintain the score at 0-0.