LFA President Musa Bility might have seen the signs on the wall when last week he cried over national radio that Lone Star’s failure against The Crocodiles of Lesotho would not be his fault.
The reason he gave was because of the Liberian government’s careless and non-financial support to the team. But while Lone Star did not lose yesterday’s game for Bility to blame the Liberian government, the team at the end of the grueling 90 minutes managed to win 1-0, in the 40th minute.
“The Liberians were holding back,” Lesotho coach Seephepha Matete told journalists after the game, “they are good but they could not move in to take control of the game.”
Granted Coach Matete had a good opinion about the team, since Lone Star had a 70% ball possession and from the blast of the whistle dictated the pace of the game.
“To lose 1-0 away is a good result,” Coach Matete said, “there is nothing that can stand in our way to qualify but I can say that the return leg in Maseru is a 50-50 chance, though.”
Perhaps one can say Matete is an honest man, and knowing the surprises that are inherent in sports, he was being too complementary for he indicated his appreciation for the skillful Liberian players.
That Lone Star, having dominated the game won 1-0 indicated that they held back and the team was not aggressive enough to make use of the many chances that came their way.
Technically, Lone Star was good in the midfield. Center forward Sherman Kpah, Anthony Laffor and Isaac Pupo were great upfront but there were something in their coordination that was lacking, which is effective team-work.
“We were much under pressure,” admitted Coach Matete, “so we have to slow the game whenever we had the chance.”
And that was exactly what they did. With Lone Star exploding with man to man passes right from the start of the game, and a goal-bound shot that was scissor-kicked from the goal, Lesotho knew they were in trouble and had to slow the game.
Perhaps unaware of what The Crocodiles were planning, Lone Star resorted to individual play, and forced their opponents to double their defense.
In that effort, defenders Sepiriti Malefane, Nkau Lerotholi and Basia Makepe worked overtime to enable goalkeeper Kananelo Makhooane to understand the intentions of their opponents.
Many fans had anticipated a glorious victory that is, at least more than one goal, that would have made the return leg in Maseru (in two weeks) a less pressure game. The Crocodiles’ defenders realized that they were standing between massacre and loss and therefore potted their defense with care.
But after Sherman Kpah, in a beautiful attack ran through the Lesotho’s defense and connected for Anthony Laffor to hit the ball home in the 40th minute, the waiting was too long that many fans wondered how the Lone Star would fare in the end.
Though one Lesotho player earned a yellow care, the team did not engage in foul plays, but plotted to neutralize Lone Star’s attacks and therefore allowed Liberian strikers to run with the ball, while their opponents’ guided them along.
The too much running around with the ball wasted Lone Star’s strikers’ energy and it had a telling effect on them.
It was long before Sherman Kpah was begging to be substituted, and though Anthony Laffor held on it was evident that it was a matter of being the spirit was willing but the flesh was weak syndrome. Sekou Jabateh Oliseh was an addition that simply increased the aimless running around since neither he nor Laffor could engage in any meaningful single solo runs.
It became apparent that Lone Star’s strikers had not recognized their opponents’ weakness. Though The Crocodiles did not pose any threat in their counter-attacks, the Liberians were not doing enough, despite holding on to the ball when they were expected to run over The Crocodiles’ defense.
Sadly, Lone Star’s counter-attack was the most unsatisfactory. In most cases, they resorted to passes from the defense when they were supposed to rush for goal, and even when they attempted to rush for goal, lack of imagination would rob them of any chance to beat their opponents in their own game.
It was one game in recent time that a team possessed a game about 70% but failed to turn the superiority into goals.
“We are sure to turn the tables in our favor in Maseru,” stated Coach Matete, but whether he was saying it because he was speaking to journalists or not, what is certain is that, there are times that home advantage becomes the only weapon in such a match.
But it was that particularly home advantage that Lone Star did not have enough aggression to use to advantage and as result the return-leg in Maseru becomes another herculean mountain to climb.
Lone Star: Nathaniel Sherman, Trokon James, Aloysius Simujla, Prince Jetoh, Teah Dennis, Alseny Keita, Issac Pupo, Eddie Wulue, Sekou Jabateh, Sherman Kpah, Anthony Laffor; Sub: Melvin King, Alvin McCornel, Nuwo Johnson, Blama Kamara, Chris Roosevelt, Elijah Clark, Sam Kollie.
Lesotho: Kananelo Makhoone, Spiriti Malefane, Nkau Lerotholi, Basia Makepe, Bokang Mothoane, Mabuti Potloane, Tsoanelo Koetle, Lekhanya Lekhanya, Motlalepula Mofolo, Makara Ntaitsane, Tsepo Seturumane, Bushy Moletsane. Sub: Likano Mphuthi, Phafa Tsosane, Bokang Sello, Thapelo Tale, Tsepo Lekhoana, Moitheri Ntobo.