By Roland Mulbah
A very spirited Liberia through grit, commitment and sheer determination enabled the red, white and blue outfit to triumph over the Carthage Eagles of Tunisia, 1-0 last Saturday, September 5, 2015 at the Antoinette Tubman Stadium in Monrovia in the second match of the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier.
Thanks to a sumptuous header from ‘goal machine’ Francis ‘Grandpa’ Forkey Doe in the 79th minute.
The win has taken Liberia to third spot in Group ‘A’ of the African Nations Cup, Gabon 2017 qualifier.
The young Liberian team side, hungry for win after a protracted period of defeats, deserved the win against a non- proactive, uninterested and lethargic Tunisian side that entered the fray with the intention of getting a draw as they did not record a single shot on goal and looked completely ordinary. The score line would have been even more embarrassing for the visitors, had it not been due to reliable goalkeeping and the lack of a genuine playmaker for Liberia.
Many fans who attended the match were frustrated from the beginning with a heavy downpour of rain, but there were heavy celebration when the home side arrived as the rain gradually ceased.
Liberia, playing in dominate red, began the match with spirit and determination with their traditional 4-4-2 formation.
SayleeSwen, who stood between the sticks for Liberia, broke record Saturday securing his first win and first clean sheet as far as playing international football is concerned.
A flat back four of Cypriot outfit Nea Salamis, Solomon Grimes, GizzieTucanDorbor of Israeli side HapoelAfula, DirkirGlay of GorMohia in Kenya and All Ali of Jordan Teah Dennis, Jr, who captained the team, stood tall against the Tunisians who entered the match wanting to secure a draw.
Malaysian club Sarawak player, Patrick Gerhardt, was the shield in front of the back four as the holding midfielder with Swedish Allsvanskan club Djugarden gem Sam Johnson playing alongside him as they pulled the strings in midfield with the latter playing as a destroyer. Malaysian Super League side, FeldaUnited master dribbler ZahRahanGrangar and MemelodiSundowns of South Africa hardworking player Anthony SnortiLaffor operated at lateral midfield.
Spanish second division side SD Ponferradina front man, William Jebor and Malaysian Premier League side NS Matrix goal customer, Francis Grandpa Forkey Doe served as the front runners with the latter playing slightly behind the former.
William Jebor, combined with striker partner Doe, came close to opening the score line, but the visitors’, goalkeeper, who was arguably the man of the match saved after the young Liberian struck from 35 yards.
The crucial win puts the red, white and blue outfit in contention for the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations to be hosted by Gabon.
The Lone Star, under the tutelage of former international ‘miracle man’ James SalinsaDebbah now has to play Djibouti back to back in March next year and await Togo in Monrovia before moving to Tunisia to complete the qualifier.
Liberia can secure 12 points if the determined young red, white and blue outfit can win against Djibouti back to back and Togo at home.
The group is now opened with Tunisia set to battle Togo back to back in the last two matches of the qualifier.
SayleeSwen-The 31-year old shot stopper, who made a return from the international wilderness after four years, was on a virtual holiday as he was literally untested. The local club LPRC Oilers custodian however made some timely interventions in his all yellow outfit.
Solomon Grimes- A very lively attitude kept him going as he showed willingness in venturing forward. The diminutive 28-year old fullback from Nea Salamis in Cyprus, was never intimidated by the towering heights of the Tunisians as he played with belief and desire, but he stand accused of being too flashy as he was mostly avoiding playing simple but wanting to do the spectacular.
GizzieDorbor- Having returned to the left back position after more than five years as he had since being converted to a center back cum holding midfielder, the Israeli club HapoelAfula 28-year old defence ace did not make overlapping runs though, but was effective in providing diagonal balls to the final third and was also accurate under pressure.
Kohn DirkirGlay-From the onset, the newly signed on Black aces of South Africa uncompromising defender gave a host of poor passes as he attempted to link up with teammates quickly. But, as the game progressed, he managed to quickly settle and was a handful to the Tunisians. The ‘tractor’ put forth his no nonsense attitude as he tussled for the ball, made fierce tackles and showed a good attitude. The 23-year old in his first home game no doubt showed the tenacity to engage opponents.
Rating: Rating: 7.5/10
Teah Dennis, Jr.-Another virtuoso performance from the Jordanian club Al-Ali defence pillar wore the captain armband for the country for the first time. Good reading of the game, precision timing and strategic marshalling of the defence by the 24-year old made life very difficult for the North African visitors. Rating: 8/10
Patrick Gerhardt- He was the one giving out instructions as he directed play in the holding role position. The 30-year old Sarawak of Malaysia asset also showed he has iron in his leg as he took a blistering long range free kick which the opposition gloves man parried over the cross bar. The harder worker also tried some ambitious efforts as the Liberians made things difficult for the former African champions. He however ran out of steam in the latter stages of the game.
Anthony Laffor-At age 30, the MamelodiSundowns of South Africa winger is still fresh as his bundle of energy, work ethics and wholehearted approach made him a massive help to his team. Laffor also used his pace and skills to great effect as he regularly cut from inside in taking the opposition on. His usual ability to track back also in squeezing the wing counted and even played in the central midfield later as a pivot in shutting the door after Liberia was in the lead. He too ran out of steam, but had to endure to the end.
ZahRahanKrangar- By his standard, the pin-sized inventive playmaker had a relatively quiet game. The 30-year old Felda United of Malaysia mainstay tried to make things happen as he was often making runs in the hole. The box of tricks was able to coddle the ball on quite a number of occasions and did not play with panic but composure before being substituted, but he was later substituted for the teenager Murphy Oscar Dorley.
Sam Johnson-He was the master card performer, the man of the match and is now the new ‘machine man’ for Liberia. The 22-year old centre forward of Djurgaden in Sweden pulled the strings in midfield, fought, did the donkey work, the destruction and covered more grounds than any player on the park. The dreadlocked ‘gladiator’ dispossessed opponents, won tackles as he operated just behind his side front two. Though he could not provide the final ball as he was misplaced since he is a striker, the former Nimba FC workaholic nature however outweighed any other attribute or quality he might have needed.
William Jebor-The 24-year old ‘Iron man’ from S.D. Ponferradina of Spain tormented the opponents and was a major threat. He was denied by the goaltender after his close range header was spilled with no follower to tap in. He won several aerial duels as well and also ran over the shoulders of the opposing defender. The former LISCR FC and LPRC Oilers man ran down the channels occasionally to create opening for advancing midfielders.
Francis ‘Grandpa’ Doe-The dreadlocked goal machine was a constant threat to the opponents. His belief, power, technique and never say die attitude kept the Tunisian defence overly busy as he got his reward 11 minutes to full time with a headed goal. In the first half however, he failed to tee up his strike partner Jebor who would have slotted the ball into the goal, but took the relatively wrong route in finding Krangar, who was pressurized. Also, he squandered a begging chance early in the second stanza as he blasted the ball over the bar and his terrific grounder was saved.
Murphy Oscar Dolley- Coming on as a second half substitute for Zah, the Monrovia Breweries gem ignited the game as he sprayed the passes and showed some promise. Making his full senior debut, the 16-year old lanky playmaker showed promise and is no doubt a star for the future.