Liberia Wallops Djibouti to Top 2017 Afcon Group A


Monrovia – Spain-based William Jebor of SD Ponferradina scored a hat-trick as Liberia walloped minnows Djibouti 5-0 in a 2017 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) qualifier at the Antoinette Tubman Stadium (ATS) on Tuesday. Jebor could have scored more goals but was unlucky with his trademark bicycle kick.

His first attempt was in the six minute but his shot travelled far from target and he again made a forceful move in the visitors’ defense in the seven minute at which time he was brought down in the penalty box and the referee called for penalty.

Former captain Anthony Laffor, who scored in the first leg in Djibouti City on March 24, scored in the ninth minute. The pressure heat up against the visitors and Dioh Williams kicked a terrific shot in the 17th minute, which almost resulted into goal but was blocked by a defender and a corner kick was awarded to Liberia.

Liberia was 90 percent better on the ball than their opponents and they continued their pressure until in the 22nd minute when Jebor kicked a powerful shot but was denied by goalkeeper Hassan Huedi.

But Sweden-based Sam Johnson registered the second goal of the match in the 27th minute, having been teed-up by midfielder Theo Weeks. Jebor could have increased the score to three in the 42nd minute after he received a splendid pass from Laffor but his shot went far from target.

Back from recess, Jerbo finally got his first goal in the 47th minute through a shot he kicked from 18 yards and kicked another shot in the 49th minute from a perfect cross received from Williams but was denied by the opponents goalkeeper.

Those that watched or listened to the game will always remember Laffor, Williams, Weeks and Johnson for their perfect and tactical ball possession and accurate passes because it was through their experience ball control that the defense did not really undergo real pressure from their opponents.

As for the visitors, they have to go back to their drawing board to better prepare themselves for the future. Liberia made three substitutions with Laffor being replaced by Kpah Sherman; Johnson by Sekou Conneh and Solomon Grimes by Bortu Daoda.

For the visitors, Aboubakar Omar replaced Idriss Ibraham; Abdouraza Mohammed went in for Migoneh Houeinand and Mohammed Ahmedia replaced Youasouf Batro. Liberia head coach James Salinsa Debbah paid homage to his players and urged them not be too complacent but to keep their eyes open for their remaining games.

“Our victory today shows that we have prospects but we should not be complacent because I know what complacencies can do to a country. It happened to us in one of our World Cup qualifications. So I am not going to sit back and think everything is over,” Debbah recalled.

Liberia top Group A with nine points after four matches while Togo and Tunisia, who played to a goalless draw in Lome also on Tuesday, are leveled on seven points but the North Africans have a superior goal advantage.

Emmanuel Adebayor ended his self-imposed international exile but failed to fire Togo past Tunisia. The Crystal Place striker had not played since Togo beat Liberia 2-1 in June 2015 in Lome and rejected a call-up for Friday’s 1-0 defeat in Tunis.

Elsewhere in Afcon qualifiers, Nigeria was eliminated from Group G following a 1-0 defeat to Egypt in Alexandria on Tuesday. Ramadan Sobhy’s 65th-minute winner puts Egypt on the verge of qualification.

With just one game remaining and only the group winners to qualify, the Super Eagles can’t make up their five-point deficit to table-toppers Egypt. Egypt faces Tanzania in June and will book their place in Gabon with any result better than a 3-0 defeat.

Nigeria won the Nations Cup in 2013 but has now suffered back-to-back eliminations in qualifying. They threw everything forward to find an equalizer and came close when West Ham winger Victor Moses crashed a shot against the post in the 84th minute.

The match became a virtually all-or-nothing tie for Nigeria after Chad withdrew from the group on Sunday, citing financial difficulties, and all results from their matches were erased.

That left only three teams in the group and in accordance with the rules of the Confederation of African Football only the winner would qualify for the finals. Egypt has seven points with one match to play, against bottom club Tanzania, who has only one point but two games remaining.

To have any chance of qualification Tanzania would need to beat Egypt by a better score line than the 3-0 defeat they suffered in Egypt last June because head-to-head records would come into effect if the sides finished level on points.

Tanzania would still have to beat Nigeria in their final match in September. Only the 13 group winners are guaranteed passage to the finals in Gabon next year, with the two best runners-up joining them.