Thousands of Liberians yesterday witnessed the national soccer team, Lone Star, missing a great opportunity to add three points to secure twelve points in Group A when Togo, led by Crystal Palace’s Emmanuel Adebayor, came from behind to score two goals to even the score 2-2 at the Antoinette Tubman Stadium.
If the Lone Star had won the game, they would have added three points to reach twelve points and kept their position at the top of Group A. Over the weekend Tunisia defeated Djibouti 3-0 to collect three points and they are now at 10 points, equaling Liberia.
Togo now stands at 8 points with their last game against free goals sharer Djibouti and assuming that Togo can claim the three points, they would reach 11 points.
Liberia now stands at a crossroads to decide matters with Tunisia in Tunis and winning again could then add up the points to 13 and losing could keep Liberia at 10 points, and a draw that many think could be unlikely could still place Liberia on a position that could only be resolved through head-to-head counts, goals for and against mechanism.
The incredible performance of the Togolese national team Sparrow Hawks, who were down by 2-0 seven minutes into the second half, did not reveal any sign of disappointment, causing the Lone Star players lose concentration and focus. The more the well-organized Togolese players ran away with the ball, the more the Liberians struggled to survive.
The Togolese kept up the pressure on the home team, particularly after William Jerbor’s scissor kick went through the blind side of goalkeeper Agassa Kossi into the Togolese post. The rising star initiated a dance that drew several teammates to celebrate the second goal in the 67th minute. Liberia’s Gizzie Dorbor secured the opener.
The Togolese restarted the proceedings and went to work and surprisingly put Lone Star on the defensive; and they were unable to even fight back. Though there were pockets of rejoicing among the teeming fan; that Liberia was unable to take control of the game overshadowed the desire to go for a full celebration.
As Lone Star, backed by thousands of fans, could not rise to the occasion, it was evident with the consistency of the Togolese in their attacks, there could be trouble waiting to happen and and the onus fell on the defense and goalkeeper Tommy Sango to work overtime.
Though Sango had shown flashes of control and authority, and had begun to play a kind of delay tactics to slow the game, the Togolese did not look back and their pressure in the 67th minute broke his resistance as a header from Ayitey reduced the tally to 2-1.
Shocked by Lone Star’s inability to dictate the pace of the game the teeming soccer fans and many wondered what had gone wrong that the technical officials, who had been busy on the sideline, could not correct.
When Lone Star took the lead in the 4th minute, many felt the game was already won, and more so when strikers Sam Johnson, Anthony Laffor, William Jerbo and Gizzie Dorbor had the Togolese defense working overtime with repeated incursions into the Togolese defense area.
Though Liberia took the lead, it was the Togolese who played a more organized man-to-man game, with the incredible Emmanuel Adebayor, who was effectively marked out by Solomon Grimes, and his team-mates upfront, which included Floyd Ama Ayitey, Henritse Eninful, winger Dossevi Matthiew and Gagkpe Serge Selom. Grimes’s marking Adebayor was so effective that by the second half, the Togolese had changed position away from him.
The Togolese team was down 1-2 but surprisingly the players upfront were dictating the trend of the game. The Lone Star midfield had broken down and could not hold on to the ball and allowed the Togolese to do all they wanted with the ball.
It therefore came as no surprise that when Adebayor and his teammates drew rings around the Lone Star players and pushed them to their defense and secured the second goal by substitute player Kodjo Fo-doh, it became clear Liberia had lost a great opportunity that could have simply let the team to engage Tunisia in Tunis for a mere formality. Lone Star inside left, Francis Doe fumbled several times and had luck been on his side, the results could have been better for Liberia.
For the record several women fainted before the start of the game and they were attended to by a team on site and several people sustained injuries around Gate 7 when they struggled to enter the stadium.
Another unfortunate incident was the firing of what police officers described as ‘pepper spray’ for no apparent reason that soccer fans got affected, including this writer and the publisher of IMAGES magazine, Mr. Sando Moore, who threatened to sue the Liberia National Police after he has completed his medical treatment, because he is a diabetic and the ‘pepper spray’ triggers his discomfort.
The national team may be on the verge of losing another golden opportunity to play friendly matches either against England, Spain or Germany, as announced by LFA President Musa Bility last week, if the team fails to qualify for the Gabon 2017 African Nations Cup.
LIBERIA: Tommy Songo, Solomon Grimes, Teah Dennis, Gizzie Dorbor, Dikir Glay, Sam Johnson, Anthony Laffor, Teo Weeks, William Jerbo, Francis Doe, Ivan Macomar Sub: Zah Krangar, Sekou Konneh, Trokon Zeon, Tonia Tisdell, G. James.
TOGO: Agassa Kossi, Emmanuel Adebayor, Djene Dakonan, Akpakpo Serges, Ouro-Akoriko Sadate, Maman A. Gafor, Romao A, Eninful Henritse, Dossevi Mathiew, Floyd Ayite Ama, Gakpe Serge Selom Sub: Mensah C. Adotsie, Kouloum Maklibe, Bossen Vincent, Segbefia P., Kodjo Fo-doh, Atakora Lulawede.