By Christopher C Walker
Barrack Young Controllers labored to a 1-0 CAF Champions League victory over Malian Champions Stade Malien at home (ATS) in Central Monrovia, as Prince Kennedy score from the penalty spot in the second half to cap three points for the hosts.
BYC struggled to create clear-cut chances against their well-organized defensive minded opponents, but did come agonizingly close to taking the lead after 25 minutes when Van-Dave Harmon set up Mark Paye; the striker’s effort sailed inches off the goal post.
It was the visitors who mustered the first real threat of the afternoon after only five minutes; when N’tji Samake shot was saved by Allenton Sembeh, who was on “holiday” for much of the match, having to make only two real saves.
Van-Dave Harmon shot went wild 8 minutes into the match before Harmon’s afforded BYC the first corner kick of the match; it was not utilized by the attackers of BYC.
The visitors created another flicker of danger as Idrissa Sogodogo crossed threateningly forced Prince Kennedy into defensive action as he intercepted, to clear the dangers from the home side.
The ‘Go Blue Boys” struggled to inject any real pace into their play, with manager Copper Sannah frustrated on the touchline as David Tweh drive crashed off a defender as the half-hour approached. Prince Kennedy just failed to deliver decent crosses for his front men. The home side tried to up the pace as the half drew towards a close at a muted BYC normal style of play with their interchanging player, with Junior Barshall blasting a wild 25-yard shot.
24 minutes=Paye wasted a free-kick above the wall of Stade Malien up in the blue sky.
36 minute-Samake was booked for a foul on Hilton Varney as his teammate Songne Yacouba was yellow carded for un-sportsmanship.
Stade Malien were grateful to end the first half goalless with the possession of the ball by the home team as David Tweh was a constant threat to the Malian throughout the match.
Back from the break BYC added more intensity to their game in getting a goal but was restricted to play the ball around, as the very physical Stade Malien players defended well.
Moussa Kone was yellow carded for a dangerous foul on Prince Kennedy after he was advice on several occasions by Central referee Raymond Coker of Sierra Leone.
50 minutes-Samake was set-up by Mussa Coulibaly but the striker shot hit the cross bar, then bounced dangerously off the goal line, as the home fans held their breath.
BYC made their first substitution as Junior Barshall came off for the skillful Sporo Somah who presence increase the attacking pace of BYC.
David Tweh was fouled outside the box as referee Coker sounded for a free kick to the home side, the Malian was relieved after Paye’s free kick was tip of the post by the goal keeper for a corner.
Kemoh Kamara received the home side only yellow card booking for a clumsy challenge on Sekou Gassama.
Goalkeeper Allenton Sembeh made his first save of the second half when he punched away striker Mahamadou Diallo curling shot.
Sannah brought in Ketu Jerbo in place of Sylvanus Morris, and within moments he was involved in the match with skillful play down the left flank.
Van-Dave curling effort from edge of the area was easily blocked; Somah’s cross shot from the same side, went straight at the goalkeeper.
83 minutes-Mark Paye found space in the center after a skillful pass by captain Van-Dave Harmon; pulled the ball back towards Stade Malian’s keeper before he was fouled in the box as referee Raymon Coker pointed to the penalty spot for a penalty.
Prince Kennedy converted sending the goal keeper in the opposite direction.
Sannah brought Francis Jallabah in for the injured Paye as his side saw out the final 9 minutes, with few alarms to seal their first win in this season's CAF competition.
Yacouba Songne was red carded while after been substituted as he protested the penalty from the bench.
At the post-match press conference BYC coach Sannah said his team had a tough match from their West African counterparts; but the result was important to them going into the second leg.
Sannah- “we are hopeful of a good game in Mali a week later because we are going to planned for it.”
He noted that his players performed to his expectation because they had to defend to attack something that is not their normal style of play.
For his part, Stade Malien coach Mamoutou Kane said he is disappointed with the result because they simply lost.
Kane- “we have to fight hard if they are to reach the next round of the Champions league. This team is great with lots of talented players so we will have to be careful at home to not concede.”