Gambia became the new champions of African cadet football when they beat Ghana 1-0 to win the 6th edition of the Championship on Sunday. Captain Ousman Jallow fired home the winning goal on 88 minutes in an overcrowded Independence Stadium to avenge an earlier defeat to Ghana, and send the host nation into wild, all-night jubilation. Jallow's goal climaxed an afternoon of missed opportunities in a final of evenly matched West African teams. Gambia thoroughly deserved their win though, and after coming so close on numerous occasions, it was now only a matter of time before their winning effort arrived.
Ghana, who survived a first half blitz from the supercharged Gambian side, must be content with their runners-up spot after failing to raise their game above average level. The more determined Gambians dominated for long spells but couldn't translate their mastery into goals.
The Scorpions went in search of goals right from the blast of the whistle, probing deep into the Ghanaian half but it was a tale of missed chances even up till the 11th minute when Sainey Nyassi's sweeping drive from inside the box went astray.
Further misses by Mandou Bojang and the imposing Momodu Ceesay characterized the Gambian onslaught in the first half hour before Ghana woke up from their slumber.
The first meaningful foray from the Starlets saw George Appiah going close for Ghana but he was denied by goalkeeper Bakary Njie who punched clear for a corner.
This pattern dominated the remaining part of the half as the Scorpions found it difficult breaking the deadlock.
On restart Gambia continued from where they left off and after two minutes, earned a free kick at the edge of the box. Bojang fired on goal but Ghanaian keeper Michael Addo punched straight at Momodu Ceesay who failed to make hay from the rebound.
Gambia coach Osam Duodu introduced his joker Sanna Nyassi for Abdoulie Mansally after 53 minutes to add bite to the Scorpions attack. But the spate of misses continued even with tall striker Momodu Ceesay terrorizing Ghanaian defenders with his big frame.
Ceesay's resilience would later pay off much later when he waltzed his way into the Starlets' box from the right to lay on for Ousman Jallow who shot home the much awaited winning goal.
The Gambia team will receive the sum of one million Dalasis (about 28 million US dollars) for their historic win as pledged by the government of President Yahya Jammeh. Meanwhile Monday was declared a public
holiday in recognition of the Gambian victory.
Gambia coach Fred Osam-Duodu expressed his joy at the victory, and told he was confident his wards would carry the day.
“We had our strategies well mapped out for this contest, and I am not surprised we won. I congratulate my team for the victory, and also congratulate Ghana for giving us a tough match,” he said.
Ghana coach David Duncan looked dejected but took the defeat calmly.
“There's no point complaining about our loss. The better side won,” he said.