Senegal begin title defence in style with win over 10-man Gambia

Senegal began their Africa Cup of Nations title defence with a 3-0 victory over 10-man Gambia helped by Lamine Camara's double in Group C on Monday, bringing an end to a sequence of surprise results at the tournament in the Ivory Coast.

After a shock-filled Sunday where the minnows had the upper hand over heavyweight opponents, Senegal restored faith in the form book as Pape Gueye scored early and Camara added two more to ensure victory in the opening Group C encounter.

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Gueye put Senegal ahead in the fourth minute at the Charles Konan Banny Stadium, while 20-year-old Camara, voted Young African Player of the Year in 2023, underlined his promise with a fine finish seven minutes after the break and a sublime second into the top corner four minutes from time.

Gambia were reduced to 10 men when Ebou Adams was sent off for a needless stamp on Camara in stoppage-time at the end of the first half, leaving Gambia on the back foot for the second period.

Senegal are the reigning AFCON champions.
Senegal are the reigning AFCON champions.
Photo by ISSOUF SANOGO/AFP via Getty Images

But they were already up against it after conceding early as Gueye swept the ball home after being teed up by Sadio Mane. Gambia captain Omar Colley's poor clearance found Mane unmarked on the left and he laid the ball back for the oncoming Gueye to score.

Adams caught Camara on his heel long after the ball had gone and initially received a caution, but after a VAR check it was changed to red, leaving the Cardiff City defender banned for the next two matches.

Two passes from deep in defence led to Senegal doubling the score with some simplicity, as captain Kalidou Koulibaly found Ismaila Sarr in midfield and he, in turn, threaded a defence-splitting pass for Camara to run onto and score.

Iliman Ndiaye's dribbling on the right of the attack set up the third goal with Ndiaye cleverly working his way across the penalty box before passing for Camara to score.

Gambia, who reached the quarter-finals of the last Cup of Nations two years ago in a surprise performance, offered little in attack save for an early shot from Musa Barrow that Senegal goalkeeper Edouard Mendy punched away to safety.

Cameroon and Guinea meet later on Monday in the second Group C game in the Ivorian capital.