It was a match that many thought was heading to a goalless draw, yesterday at the Antoinette Tubman Stadium when the time reached the 85th minute.
The Young Elephants of Ivory Coast played a more careful game and their Liberian counterparts, Jr. Lone Star also fought to at least get a goal.
But so far, the statistics favored the Ivorians as they had wasted ten corner-kicks as against one by Jr. Lone Star. The Ivorians had also took several shots at goal but Jr. Lone Star kept passing the ball around, hoping that an opportunity would make itself available for a goal.
Even their two shots at goal in the second half were through direct kicks, just outside the eighteen yard box, and the Young Elephants had also had a couple of opportunity with the direct kick without result.
While Jr. Lone Star had advantage in individual performance, and strong on the ball, “There was no one who would take the ball into the Ivorians’ zone,” noted Veteran Josiah N. Johnson, who had visited the players in their dressing room at half time.
“I told them there is time to play solo move and such a move is done by exploiting the weaknesses of the opponents to advantage. Get into the zone and as Armah Baxter would tell you, all goal be goal,” Johnson told sports writers after the match.
Hundreds of soccer fans were becoming frustrated as the local idols played for themselves, pushing the ball around and wasting it.
“We want goal,” shouted a soccer fan in the stands, “when will they score?”
That question was answered when midfielder Derly Murphy decided to make use of Coach Johnson’s advice and went for an experiment.
The Antoinette Tubman Stadium was dull until then and even a group cheering soccer fans of the Ivorian side had lost some enthusiasm, despite the occasional drumming and shouting.
Midfielder Murphy received a ball and running hard, swept it to the left extreme, with two Ivorian defenders marking him closely. Murphy, with full energy, pushed the ball hard and moved through the two defenders, who surprisingly misjudged Murphy’s movement.
Driving through with force, Murphy entered the penalty box but was confronted with a set of defenders who made an attempt to block him and in the process swept him to the ground, and Togolese referee Fagle Kokou whistled for a penalty.
The Ivorian players protested the call but the referee was at the best position to know what happened to Murphy and therefore the spot kick rule was initiated.
Substitute Nimely Blamo elected to take the penalty and after the whistle sounded, Blamo hit the ball so hard that though Ivorian goalie Seck Diabagate torched it, he could not prevent the ball from entering into the net.
The stadium went wild as Liberian soccer fans began to jubilate, for it was a goal they had waited for so long.
When the game was restarted, the Ivorians fought for the equalizer but with four minutes to goal and Jr. Lone Star’s superior ability to hold on to the ball it was clear that they have secured the first leg of their CAF African Youth Tournament, with the return-leg coming on in two weeks’ time in Abidjan.
For the record Jr. Lone Star’s ball possession was about 65% as against 35% by the Ivorians.
Jr. Lone Star: Koulibaly Abdulai, Ben Gbamy, Boakai Molu, Nimely Nyanti, Varney Fofana, Franciah Raymond, Stephen Seameh, Sporo Somah,Silvanus Nimely, Harmon Van-Dave, Prince Saydee. Sub: Nimely Blamo
Jr. Elephants: Seck Diabagate, Kessie Frank Yannick, Maiga Dibo Habie, Britto Dahoh, Diallo Ishmael, Sangare Ibrahim, Mette Yakou, Guiza Dieze, Jimoh Soherif, Nguessam Bi Noel, Siaby Ibbrahim.