The hopes of defending champions Grand Bassa qualifying for the semi-finals of the National County Meet would have been dashed on Friday were it not for a late controversial penalty against Nimba County in the 86th minute at the Antoinette Tubman Stadium.
The Mountainous Boys of Nimba County took the lead in the 67th minute through a penalty after a hand-ball was committed by a Grand Bassa defender in the penalty area.
But in defense of their trophy, Grand Bassa County through Togar Goffeh netted home a controversial penalty in the 86th minute to keep the champions’ hope alive.
Mark Samme of Bassa was hit in the box by a Nimba defender who opened his arms to prevent his opponent from winning the ball. Samme, who kept running towards the goal, hit the defender, fell on the ground and started to roll, which led the referee to call a penalty against Nimba.
The entertaining match was from kick-off controlled by Nimba up to the 16th minute, making over five attempts at goal. But Grand Bassa responded and took possession of the ball, with David Paye later creating space for himself by beating three of his opponents to shoot at the goal, which was quickly repelled by the Nimba defense.
Linea Somah of Bassa also tried getting the curtain raiser with a left footed strike which was denied by goalkeeper Prince Mawolo.
A chance from close range, for which Nimba supporters were on their feet anticipating the opening goal, was denied by goalkeeper Reuben Frank, who flipped the ball over the crossbar.
The chance was taken by Emmanuel Kiawon.
The last encounter between the two counties was in the finals of the 2015 edition when Grand Bassa defeated Nimba 2-1.
In the day’s other fixture, Margibi County advanced to the semi-finals by defeating Lofa County 2-0 at the Antoinette Tubman Stadium.
Margibi got the opening goal in the 6th minute through a penalty, which they maintained to the end of the half.
The “Wologizi Boys” of Lofa bounced back in the second half by putting up several attacks, but Margibi kept their four backs in their defensive posture.
Lofa County’s goalkeeper became a defender by coming out of his box as his teammates continued their attacks in search of the equalizer. But Margibi ended the pressure by getting a late goal to double their advantage.
Margibi now top Group “B” with four points from matches, while Nimba and defending champions Grand Bassa share two points apiece. Lofa is in the bottom of the group with a point and will face Nimba County in their final group match. Margibi will take on Grand Bassa in their final fixture at the Antoinette Tubman Stadium on January 5.