Lone Star Was Spirited Against Nigeria
It was a thrilling derby between the Lone Star of Liberia
and the Super Eagles of Nigeria in the first leg, final
round of the 2013 Afcon at the SKD. The Lone Star of Liberia
who entered the fray as underdogs surprised their more
illustrious opponents with a spirited performance as the tie
With both sides in their tried and tested 4-4-2 formation,
the hosts drew first blood with a stunning lead through
Turkish based wide man Tonia Tisdell. The left foot craft
man latched onto a flick-pass from playmaker Isaac Zola Pupo
who had made jinks into the Nigerian box to tap the ball
beyond the reach of a lackluster Vincent Enyeama as early as
the 5th minute to put the Lone Star noses in front.
Captain Joseph Yobo would then rally his men to respond as
the Lone Star lifted them with the early goal. In a back
four that comprised Juwon Oshaniwa and Godfrey Itama
Oboabona from local clubs Sharks and SunShine Stars
respectively and Yobo’s defensive partner,Azubike Emmanuel
Egwuekwe of local club Warri Wolves, the Super Eagles had a
midfield quartet of Italian club FC Gubbio midfielder Nwanko
Obiora in the balanced role, Real Betis Nosakharee Igiebor
behind the front two of Villareal’s loaned striker at
Granada CF, Ukwechukwu Uche and Spartak Moscow’s Emmanuel
Eminike, with the wide men being new Chelsea signing Victor
Moses and local club Enugu Rangers Christainus Ejike Uzoenyi.
The Super Eagles tried to pass the ball in the midfield, but
a bumpy pitch and a fearsome Lone Star outfit prevented
their passing games as full back George Gebro made a rugged
challenge on Moses who would spend some time on the surface.
Gebro had as defensive partners, the Cypriot based Solomon
Grimes of Nea Salamina the central defensive duo of Omega
Roberts and Jimmy Dixon of Serbian club FK Smederevo and
Swedish side BK Hacken respectively.
In the holding role was US Monasaart of France Alseny Keita,
Isaac Pupo of local club LPRC Oilers as the playmaker and
Sekou Jabateh Oliseh of CSKA Moscow and Turkish side
Saliufaspor’s Tonia Tisdell, while the front two included
the Indonesian based Zah Rahan Krangar and Edward Junior
Wilson of Persipura and Semen Padang respectively.
The visitors tried to pick the pockets of the host defense
who stood gallantly to maintain their lead, but as the game
progressed, the Nigerians managed to get behind the Liberia
national team defense from the left channel as a cross from
Ejike Uzoenyi was parried by a reliable goalkeeper Sherman
only for a lurking and unmarked Igiebor to slot the ball in
an unguarded net to restore parity for the two times African
champions in the 16th minute.
This made the Super Eagles to start making-inroads as they
were ominous in getting the second goal. Then, four minutes
later, a suicidal back pass from Sekou Oliseh was received
by the nimble footed Moses whose weaving runs cum
mesmerizing dribbles got the better of Omega Roberts and
George Gebro with the former fouling him with the back of
the leg and the latter falling over him for a penalty
awarded by controversial Malian referee Komon Coulibaly.
Uche then placed the converted penalty in the roof which
like the first goal went through the net as the SKD became
After the goal, the Lone Star began to chase the game to
prevent the Nigerians from continuing their foothold status
as Tonia Tisdell, Zah Krangar and Isaac Pupo became lively
while Gebro remained solid. Tisdell’s sublime dribbles had
won his side a host of free kicks from promising positions,
but the Nigerian defense stood tall. The Lone Star was
vulnerable from wide areas as the duo of Solomon Grimes and
George Gebro had no cover since the pair of Oliseh and
Tisdell did not have the recovery runs in tracking back to
outnumber the opposition. An injured and rather floppy Omega
Roberts who was very erratic in defense had to make way for
a hungry Teah Dennis, Jr. as the first half went to bed.
In the second period, the Lone Star raised their game and
Jabateh with a changed boot that had a poor first half began
showed some promise.
But, it was a surprise that Nigeria’s Coach keshi abandoned
his side wing play which was useful to them in the first
half as he opted to attack from the middle which made life
difficult for his side as the Lone Star began to take the
game to them.
The Lone Star then started to create chances and though Uche
nearly scored from a screamer which was disposition by
Sherman, the Lone Star probed and probed as they got the
equalizer through Sekou Oliseh who effectively executed a
Zah Krangar’s cleverly measured cross to beat a match rusty
Eyenma as the score board read 2-2. In the 66th minute.
Moses would then make way for a quick Ahmed Musa of CSKA
Moscow and a rather tired Yobo had to make way for Scottish
side Celtic Efe Ambrose who recently vowed to stop the
imperious Lionel Messi when his side meets the Blaugarna
later on in the champions’ league group stage.
The Lone Star had penalty appeals when substitute Eddie
Boikai Foday, a more mobile player who had come on for an
immobile Edward Junior Wilson was upended and Jimmy Dixon
headed home a free kick that was judged for offside. But Zah
could count himself unlucky when he earlier headed a ball
that beat Enyeama but landed on the frame and then back to
the goalkeeper, the diminutive player also had his effort go
through the side netting which send the SKD in frenzy as
they thought it was a goal.
Tisdell also made way for a somewhat unimpressive James Soto
Roberts. But, it was the Super Eagles that should have
scored in the dying minute when Jimmy Dixon made a howler in
gifting a header to the predator Uche whose one-two with
Musa saw him close to the Lone Star goal line, but he did
not have much venom in his tap as a brave Shermen went under
the boot of the former Getafe man to make the much needed
intervention as the match ended 2-2.
The second leg is on October 13 in Nigeria as they take home
a crucial two away goal.
In truth, the Lone Star played a very determine and
promising game as they surprised the Nigerians by giving
them a run for their money. There were some bread and butter
calls from the Malian referee though, but his major calls
were good as Jimmy Dixon was truly offside for his headed
goal and Zah’s effort hit the side netting and then landed
in the goal as the nets all had holes on them, a surprise as
the match officials should have spotted that before kickoff
for it to be changed, but to play with such net caused
problems from the players and even the spectators angle.
Tactically, the Lone Star Coach disrespected the Super
Eagles. Playing with just one holding midfielder in Alseny
keita meant the Nigerians were seemingly gifted as they were
always going to score. In the 4-4-2 formation, the Lone Star
had two wide men in Sekou Oliseh and Tonia Tisdell who were
not the harder workers in tracking back. Thus, George Gebro
and Solomon Grimes always had to deal with a one v one
situation and at times 2v 1 when one of the strikers went
wide or even the full backs venture forward. Thus, a
formation with two holding players like in a 4-2-3-1
formation which is regarded as the most flexible formation
or just any formation with a double pivot or two holding
midfielders would have caused the Nigerians defeat.
In this, there would have been not much need for the two
wide men to track back as the two holding players would have
given them and the back four much protection as they would
have squeezed the wings where the Nigerians were menacing.
Besides, man of the match Isaac Pupo was a joy to watch
especially providing the telling balls in wide areas. But,
in truth some of his passes had too much spin that went into
the air in the middle of the opponents defense which made
the taller Nigerian defenders dealt with them easily. He
should have provided more through balls on the floor for the
skillful strikers to take on Yob who is no where near his
best, and Keshi must now start finding his replacement, so
too is goalkeeper Vincent who was a flop as he did not play
for the entire season at Lille in France and is now back in
Israel on loan with Meccabi Televiv.
Jimmy Dixon did not have an all bad game though, but his
international playing days seem to be numbered as he
struggled with the pace and aggression of Uche and Eminike
and was beaten on a host of occasion. Uche should have even
wrapped up the game as he had two clear cut chances which a
player of his caliber should have buried. The introduction
of Teah Dennis, Jr. for a dreadful Omega Roberts who was in
fact a wrong pair with Jimmy since both players are not the
rugged style defenders, once more proves while there was no
need to send for 14 professionals when in fact there are
tried and tested locals who can do the work. So, a player
like Ansu Toure came from Denmark only to warm the bench and
Martin Kendue, a local lad who is useful as a holding
midfielder was overlooked.
Also, Keshi with his poor tactic in abandoning the wing play
where his side was lethal for launching attack from the
middle proved his undoing as the hosts got back into the
With a 2-2 away draw, the Super Eagles are now firm
favorites and with the Lone Star being poor travelers as
they have drawn just one game in their last nineteen
competitive away fixtures, only the most unrealistic of
pundits will insinuate that Liberia will go through. Kudos
must go to Kaetu Smith and the entire technical crew as they
put up a very promising show to the surprise of many. While
there were some problems, they drilled the team in a way
that they made life uneasy for the star saturated Nigerians.
The trio of Isaac Zola Pupo, Tonia Tisdell and Zah Rahan
Krangar were the three most outstanding performers of the
Finally, the Super Eagles are certainly living in the past
with Keshi yet to win an away match since taking over
Nigeria as he has drawn with Malawi, Rwanda and of late
Liberia. He and his charges will have to raise their game,
and seeing the match against the Lone Star it was no
surprise they did not make it at the last Afcon where they
were held to a 2-2 draw at home by Guinea, after a 0-1 loss
in the corresponding fixture in Conakry.