Liberia: “We Are No More Underdogs In Africa’ – Says Lone Star coach Keita
Monrovia-Liberia’s Lone Star surprised their host, South Africa’s Bafana Bafana, by earning a 2-2 draw in the first leg of the 2023 Nations Cup qualifiers in Johannesburg. The visitors had to come back from being 2-0 down to pull off the draw, something that Lone Star coach Ansu Keita says is a dedicated day for Liberian football.
By: Christopher C.Walker [email protected] 0777898224/0886723075
South Africa started the match as planned and got the opener from six yards after Lone Star keeper Tommy Songo conceded a cheap penalty for a foul on Parcy Tau. Lyle Foster converted the penalty in the 10th minute and followed it up with a header from the near post to seal his brace in the 22nd minute.
Before the host took over the game, Lone Star came alive with some good displays from Murphy Oscar Dorley and Mohammed Kamara. Kamara forced a save from Bafana Bafana keeper Ronwen Hayden Williams after his decent free kick was pushed out for a corner kick, while Dorley spotted Williams off the goal and lobbed the ball over him. The Bafana Bafana keeper tipped the ball over the crossbar for a corner kick.
The South Africans could have put the game to bed in the first half and early stages of the second half but missed several scoring opportunities, and the first half ended 2-0 to the host. Back from the break, Coach Keita’s tactical approach during the game proved to be a masterpiece so far, with two quick substitutions bringing on Allen Njie and Mohammed Sangare, and Tommy Songo, who was at fault for the two goals conceded, made amends in the second half, making several timely interventions and saves.
Lone Star started putting their foot on the ground by moving the ball around but had yet to get a goal, making it look difficult until Tonia Tisdell came on for Tarrance Tisdell. Tonia made an instant impact with his first touch, drawing a foul, and then he curved the resulting ball that beat Williams in goal for Bafana Bafana, reducing the host’s lead to 2-1 on 68 minutes.
Keita’s men kept pressuring forward for the equalizer and got it from a stunning left-foot strike from English-based Liberian midfielder Mohammed Sangare in the 90 plus one minute. The two substitutes, Tonia and Sangare, combined well as Tonia drove through the middle of the park to release Sangare, who wasted no time but struck from 30 yards out to disappoint the home side, ending the match 2-2.
Following Friday’s draw, Coach Keita said he was very happy and pleased with the result they got from the game. He told reporters after the game that drawing with the South Africans away from home should send out a message to the rest of the world that Liberia is on its way to good football and should not be underestimated.
“It’s a victory for us; this was our plan to get a draw here. The return game, trust me, with our supporters behind us, we will be more motivated than this, and you see we came down from 2-0. It should speak volumes to South Africa,” Keita said.
According to Keita, the South Africans underestimated his side but he believes they will not do the same again in the return leg on Tuesday in Monrovia. “This is a new generation now; we are no longer underdogs in Africa. This is a message to the world that Liberia is coming back to itself. We produced the world’s best player, and we can still go on and do that. We are here now,” he added.
“It was a pleasure being in South Africa today, it was a tough game, very good game, South Africa are a very good side that plays very good football, but the game is about 90 minutes, yesterday I said it, it’s 90 minutes,” he said.
Keita continued: “So, we were here to compete and we have an advantage at home, trust me, we’re playing 12 against 11 in our home, we have our supporters with us, so South Africa, I wish them good luck when we play them.”
Friday result took the Lone Star second in Group K of the Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers with one point and five points behind leaders Morocco.
A win for Lone Star on Tuesday, March 28 in Monrovia will see Lone Star in a comfortable position going into the last round of matches.
Meanwhile, South Africa will be hoping to secure a win away from home or draw and pray for a point in their final match with Morocco.