The national soccer team, Lone Star’s chance of sitting comfortably for the return leg against Guinea Bissau next week Tuesday in Bissau did not clear as they were forced to a 1-1 draw in the first leg at the Antoinette Tubman Stadium yesterday.
Lone Star will leave the country on Sunday for Guinea Bissau to honor the return-leg, still shocked at their inability to have converted several scoring chances that came their way in the first leg.
The team had at least three begging chances, by Francis Doe, who could not convert due to over anxiety and in addition to the lone penalty scored in the 35th minute by striker William Jerboe, when defender Mendes Eridson fouled Patrick Gerhardt in the box.
Until the goal came, Lone Star had dominated the game with Anthony Laffor, Francis Doe, Patrick Gerhardt, Zah Krangar and Sam Johnson pushing their opponents in their own half, as the throng at the stadium cheered on with songs and echoes of vuvuzelas.
And apparently playing defensive with occasional counter-attacks, Guinea Bissau for the greater part of the first half played a waiting game. At most, forward Malado Bald Amido was allowed to hover near the Lone Star defense.
On several occasions, he could not put passes from team-mates under control because Liberia’s defense, pivoting around Teah Dennis had no time to waste and overwhelmed him, rendering him ineffective.
Although Liberia had several begging chances, particularly three that speed star Francis Grandpa Doe fumbled in what someone described as ‘in front of the goalkeeper,” Guinea Bissau goalkeeper Jonas Mendes was a player whose performance saved his team from complete disgrace. His advances for ball and challenges against Lone Star strikers were perfect.
In contrast to Guinea Bissaus’ goalkeeper Jonas Mendes, Lone Star’s goalkeeper Saylee Swen was not tested much and could have read a full page article in the Daily Observer in the first 45 minutes, but in the end, failed to keep alive the memory of his last performance against Tunisia on September 5.
Swen was relaxed during most of the first half until the team changed positions to defend Rally Time Market. Unfortunately for Swen, the afternoon sun’s rays powered towards him and he would often cover his eyes with his hands to protect against the sun which enabled him to see the direction of the ball anytime their opponents were pushing his side to defend their zone in this half.
Lone Star’s midfield had lost its bite because it had succumbed to the pressure from their opponents. It was surprising since they were down 1-0 and many spectators had hoped that being down would have dampened their spirit to fight on.
They were wrong.
Perhaps encouraged by the good saves of goalkeeper Jonas Mendes, who had denied Liberia several goal chances, the team took control of the game and pushed Lone Star’s defense in their zone to work overtime. Players Cande Mamadu, Jose Luis
Mendes Lopez, skipper Ca Bocumdji and Sami Leocisio had Lone Star’s defense working from the ground up.
Meanwhile the sun kept its rays towards goalkeeper Swen’s direction as their opponents launched one of the few attacks they engineered in the 60th minute. The ball flew towards Swen aided by the sun rays which blurred Swen’s vision. Swen made an attempt, sadly not to punch the ball which could have been his best defense but to catch it and bring it to safety.
The time was ticking.
And that is where he misjudged the position. In the process, Swen took a couple of steps back and it was clear that he had lost the ball, for Eridson Mendes was hiding in the shadows to put his head to the ball to strike it into the gapping net.
Swen could not believe it.
The equalizer shot through the Antoinette Tubman Stadium and the cheering throng and their vuvuzelas went silent. Echoes of ‘what happened to Swen?’ filled the stadium and many said Swen could have punched the ball.
With the scores at one-all, Lone Star still could not find their fighting spirit, exhibited in the first 45 minutes of the game till it became apparent that their opponents were comfortable with a draw.
Strangely, as the time remaining for the game registered 10minutes, Lone Star regained its depleted energy and began to push for goals. Lone Star brought in Marcus Macauley for Patrick Gerhardt and Oscar Dolley took over from Anthony Laffor, who played an incredible game, but the soccer gods had determined that the game should end in a draw.
And so when the referee ended the game after six minutes extra time that did not produce additional goals for either side, it was the visitors who congratulated themselves, openly hugging each other, including their coaches, for surviving a match that it was clear they were sure to lose but now had thrown the final decider for the next round to meet La Cote d’Ivoire on Tuesday afternoon in Guinea Bissau.
Liberia: Saylee Swen, Gizzie Dorbor, Teah Dennis, Dirkir Glay, Solomon Grimes, Anthony Laffor/Oscar Dolley, Patrick Gerhadt/Marcus MaCauley, Zah Krangar, Sam Johnson, Francis Doe, William Jerboe.
Guinea Bissau: Jonas Mendes, Mendes Eridson, Samba Cande, Nunes Silva Edson Ricardo, Cande Mamadu, Jose Luis Mendes Lopez, Ca Bocundji, Ibrahima Cassama, Sami Leocisio, Malado Bald Amido.