2023 AFCON: Senegal get defence off to winning start against The Gambia

Senegal have won their opening game at each of the last five editions of the Africa Cup of Nations

Holders Senegal began their 2023 Africa Cup of Nations campaign with victory over 10-man underdogs The Gambia.

Pape Gueye gave the Teranga Lions the ideal start, collecting Sadio Mane’s pass to fire in a fourth-minute opener from inside the penalty area.

Cardiff City midfielder Ebou Adams was dismissed for The Gambia for an off-the-ball challenge just before half-time.

Lamine Camara doubled Senegal’s lead with a low finish after the break and curled in a classy third from distance.

With Cameroon facing Guinea in the other Group C match on Monday (17:00 GMT), Senegal’s fourth win of a five-match unbeaten run gave Aliou Cisse’s side early control of the group as they kept a fifth successive clean sheet.

The Gambia, whose Fifa ranking of 126th is the lowest of any team involved in the tournament in the Ivory Coast, threatened first when Edouard Mendy beat away Alasana Manneh’s fierce left-footed attempt from distance.

After Gueye’s opener, Habib Diallo also went close for Senegal, while Musa Barrow and Ali Sowe sent first-half efforts wide for The Gambia.

Despite Adams’ dismissal, via the video assistant referee, in first-half stoppage time, the underdogs almost equalised early in the second period but for a flying Mendy save to deny Barrow.

After Camara doubled Senegal’s advantage, Gambia goalkeeper Baboucarr Gaye produced a fine stop to prevent Chelsea striker Nicolas Jackson from scoring off the bench, and Ismail Jakobs also fired wide from a tight angle.

Camara’s second owed much to a flourish of trickery from Iliman Ndiaye on the right, as he demonstrated masterful control to toy with his markers and angle a low pass back to the Metz midfielder, whose right-footed strike from outside the box arced over Gaye and into the far corner of the net.

Senegal will return to Yamoussoukro’s Charles Konan Banny Stadium to meet Cameroon in their second group-stage match on Friday (17:00 GMT).

Tom Saintfiet’s Gambia will attempt to end a run of three successive defeats against Guinea – the team they beat to reach the quarter-finals against the odds at Afcon 2021 – in the subsequent game at the same venue (20:00 GMT).

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