Report by Christopher C. [email protected]
Monrovia – The Gambia has been crowned champion of the 2018 West African Football Union (WAFU) under 20 Zone A Nations Cup that was held in Liberia.
The “Junior Scorpions,” as The Gambian junior football national team is called, on Saturday, May 5, secured a hard fought 2-1 victory over host Liberia in front of their home fans in Monrovia. The National U-20 team of Liberia went into the match prepared to win the country’s first major trophy in 39 years against an undefeated Gambia in the grand final of the inaugural edition of the WAFU tournament at the Samuel Kanyon Doe Sports Complex.
Just two minutes into the match, Musa Kebbay of Liberia had a chance to get the match opener after a through ball from his captain, Allen Njie, but the junior Lone Star’s top goal scorer’s first-touch ball went wide over the cross bar to the disbelief of the fans including former Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.
A minute later the Gambians replied with a goal in the 3rd minute when Guinean referee Baba Leane failed to spot a foul on Liberian goalkeeper Ashley Williams allowing Adama Jammall to score from close range.
The home side fought hard to get the match equalizer in the first half but could not due to their frontliners’ poor concentration in scoring goals.
The legs of Musa Kebbay and Sam Jackson, who had been instrumental in Liberia’s performance in the tournament, could not prove their worth against the best defense in the tournament.
Sekou Sheriff’s strike from outside the box was denied by the Gambian keeper as he tipped the ball over the bar.
Liberia coach Christopher Wreh’s tactic of playing with two defensive midfielders John Jaysay and Allen Njie was a factor in the “Red, White and Blue boys’” defeat as their lead striker got less supplied.
Wreh’s men continued their long ball game,which was appreciated by the Gambians because of their good heights and physical structures.
Prior to the match, coach Matthias Brogen of The Gambia told reporters at the pre-match conference that he was going to plan well for Liberia.
“We know the Liberian squad, they play a lot of long balls and briefly put together few short passes, but we will take care of them.”
Lone Star kicked start the second half with lot of pressure, which resulted into the equalizer in the 54th minute of the match.
Jeremy Saygbe headed home a corner to send the stadium into total frenzy, but
the celebration did not last long enough following the Junior Scorpions’ second goal from Adama Jammall after a counter attack.
Down by a goal, Coach Wreh’s tactical approach was needed to get the equalizer but could not help the team as he introduced Chuncey Freeman for Musa Kebbay, who was not seen in the match due to the lack of service while Sidiki Kromah came on for Sam Jackson but the home side went down.
Goalie Ashley Williams showed promise again; so were the likes of Jeremy Saygbe, Allen Njei and others.
The national U-20 failed to break a 39-year record. The last time Liberia won a silverware in a competition was the Six-Nation tournament in 1979 in Monrovia.
Surprisingly, President George Weah, who had been at three of Liberia’s games did not showed up for the game due to what security forces reportedly said was as a result of “security risks.”
Unhappy Liberian fans stood or sat in disbelief with one fan sadly asking, “You mean we will not see Liberia win a trophy in our life time?” When one pundit told him ‘small, small,’ he replied “that is everyday talk.”
For the record, Gambia goaltender Yankuba Colley won the best goalkeeper award. Diakite Ibrahim Yalatif of La Cote d’Ivoire walked away with the top goal scorer with six goals and Liberia’s Allen Njei was awarded the Most Valuable Player’s prize.