Liberia Draws Blank With Namibia, Qualifies for Group Stage
of Africa Cup
Written by Rodney D. Sieh
Windhoek, Namibia - It wasn’t pretty but Liberia’s Lone Star
defended their 1-0 first leg win in Monrovia with a lucky
0-0 draw against the Warriors of Namibia. Heading into the
match, Liberia held a 1-0 aggregate lead.
Namibia needed to win by two clear goals if they had any
chance of moving to the next stage of the qualifiers for the
bi-annual continental championships taking place in South
Africa in 2013.
Hopes were high for the Warriors heading into the match, the
team was on a high following their 2014 FIFA World Cup
qualifier 1-0 victory over Kenya last weekend. Liberia was
coming off a 3-1 loss to the Lions of Senegal.
Coach Kaetu Smith who had endured a turbulent few days
leading to the match after expelling three of his key
players, former Captain Anthony Laffour, Francis Grandpa Doe
and Dioh Williams gave a full start to CSKA Moscow striker
Sekou Jabateh Oliseh, coming off an shin injury, who was
left up front along with Patrick Wleh in his planned 4-4-2
formation against Namibia.
The combination proved to be a handful for the Warriors
early on as Jabateh solo run on the right flank in the 2nd
minute was headed over the crossbar by Wleh.
Despite a glimmer of occasional brilliant footwork by Oliseh,
Liberia found trouble holding the ball for most of the
match, allowing the Warriors to take advantage of sloppy
passes and sometimes incoherent coordination in the
midfield. Had it not been for the brilliant Nathaniel
Sherman between the Lone Star’s post, the Warriors could
have made thing sour for their visitors.
The Lone Star’s defense was in fine form for most of the
match with Solomon Grimes at right, Teah Dennis and Omega
Roberts in the central defense and the veteran George Gebro
who was given the captain’s armband after Laffour’s
suspension playing at left back.
But it was the lack of a coordinated midfield which proved
to be detrimental for Liberia for most of the match forcing
Eslin Kamuhanga and Warriors’ captain Ronald Ketjijere to
break down the Liberian defense for most of the match. The
pairing cause a lot of tension of Liberia with some nice
solo runs and aptly-timed combination which caught the
Liberian defense off guard.
An in-swinger from the right flank in the 30th minute by
Kamuhanga was smartly saved by Sherman. The Namibians
fielding a fairly young team dominated most of the second
half but just could not finish the visitors off.
The Warriors’ Heinrich Isaacks cost Liberia numerous
headaches but had two rocket shots missed the cross bar by
inches early in the second half and in the dying minutes of
the match. But it was his cancelled out goal in the 58th
minute that brought the stadium to its feet briefly only for
the goal to be disallowed and spare Liberia the heartache.
Namibia blames poor refereeing
Warrior’s coach Bernard Kaanjuka pointed the bulk of his
team’s defeat to missed chances and luck for Lone Star but
took jibes at the refereeing.
Lonestar Captain George Grebo fight for the ball with
Hendrik Somaeb of the Brave Warriors
“It’s because of the referee that we lost the game,”
Kaanjuka said after the match.
The referee’s performance was poor. Liberia were wasting
time but he didn’t take any action against their delaying
tactics,” he said. “It looks like the referee came from
Senegal or something but he is from Zambia,” Kaanjuka
Liberia’s coach Kaetu Smith dismissed the charge as absurd.
“We came with a game plan to defend our 1-0 aggregate score
and we did so to perfection. It wasn’t pretty, but we got
the results we needed. Now we’re headed to the group stage
with a chance to play for spot in the Cup of Nations in
South Africa,” Smith said.
Simply unlucky, coach says
But Kaanjuka said the result was simply because his side was
unlucky. “The only problem today was that luck was not on
our side. If you look at the game in the second half we had
a lot of chances and the boys did not put them through so
that is the only problem. And as you can see they were too
much in a hurry, they did not look up and everybody wanted
to score. So the problem I would say was the experience.
They did not have the experience and it cost us problems.”
Continued Kaanjuka: “Our dream was to score one goal but it
did not come our way. So this is just the beginning and we
have still a long way to go. The team is pretty young and
they have a bright future. They should have won today but
luck was not just on our side.”
While Kaanjuka can take some solace in his young side’s
missed chances, a bright spot for the Namibian side was the
play of Henrico Botes, the lanky center forward had the Lone
Star’s defence on edge. He had a powerful header missed the
crossbar early in the second half.
Liberia’s coach Smith brought on Perry Kollie for Wleh, who
missed some glorious scoring chances, including a tap on a
loose ball from a corner which went inches over the crossbar
shortly before taking his exit.
In the match’s closing moments, including injury time, the
Namibians fought desperately to dampen the Lone Star’s day
to no avail Both Larry Horaeb and Hendrik Somaeb brought
Lone Star defenders to their knees into the box but poor
finishing and brilliant saves from Sherman shattered their
Alamadine injured in dying minutes
Just seconds before the final whistle, Lone Star’s defender
Omega Alamadine was taken off on a stretcher and is listed
day-to-day. He suffered a collision with Warriors Somaeb
after clearing a dangerous kick.
As Lone Star players celebrated, questions will no doubt be
lingering over the team’s readiness for the next phase of
the qualification round after they struggled to get by a
young Namibian team, albeit a rugged draw away from home.
The winners from Round One face the 16 finalists from the
2012 Africa Cup of Nations over two legs on 7-9 September
and 12-14 October to decide the 15 finalists joining hosts
South Africa in the 2013 finals.
Theo Weeks tracks down Eslin Kamuhanga of Namibia
Lack of coordination and some defensive lapses against a
young Namibian team Sunday, coupled with the recent
expulsion of some of the team’s core players has raised the
stakes for Liberia in both the Cup of Nations and World Cup
qualifiers. Coach Smith and company have their work cut out
for a team lacking cohesion and in the words of Namibian
coach Kaanjuka, riding on “luck”.
Liberia: 1-Sherman Nathaniel; 17 George Gebro; 15 Solomon
Grimes; 6. Omega Alamadine; 3 Teah Dennis; 5 Jimmy Dixon; 8.
Alseny Keita; 4 Theo Weeks; 11 Zah Rahan Krangar; 13.
Patrick Wleh(Kollie-82); 10. Sekou Jabateh Oliseh; Subs: 18.
Mulbah Urey; 9. Solomon Wesseh; 12. Martin Karndu; 16.
Abraham Barshall; 7. Kollie Perry; 2. Marcus Macauley; 14.
Herron Berrian; Coach: Joseph Kaetu Smith
Namibia: 16. Virgill Vries; 5. Dacosta Angula; 4. Willem
Mwedihanga; 6. Larry Horaeb; 2. Denzil Haoseb; 12. Ronald
Ketjijere; 7. Heinrich Isaacks; 11 Petrus
Shitembi(Somaeb-70); 8. Willy Stephanus; 13. Eslin Kamuhanga;
9. Henrico Botes; Subs: 1-Efraim Tjihonge; 3. Steven Sabatha;
10. Tangeni Shipahu; 14. Neville Tjiueza; 17. Sadney Urikhob;
15, Benson Shilongo; 18. Hendrik Somaeb; Head Coach: Bernard