9:53 PM
Anthony Laffor
Liberia labored to beat a lowly-rated Lesotho 1-0 in the first leg preliminaries of the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations at the Antoinette Tubman Stadium (ATS) in Monrovia on Sunday.

South Africa-based Anthony Laffor, who swapped his famous #14 jersey for the #22 shirt against Uganda, amended for a near-missed when he was clinically put through on goal by Sekou Jabateh-Oliseh to find the winner in the 40th minute after a Kpah Sherman combination of strength and skill.

Sherman out-witted his marker before teeing-up Jabateh who had space and time to scream through his pass in a tight defense. Laffor, wearing the captain's armband, could have found the curtain raiser eight minutes earlier when he rattled the crossbar to the disbelief of the few spectators inside the ATS.

Sherman, on holiday in Monrovia after a lengthy season in Cyprus, was the provider and tormentor-in-chief for the home side, whose only real attempt on goal in the first half, came from his effort. The electoral motive for closing the national league in February had a severe wear and tear on all of the local players and the match rusty nature of Greece-based Sekou Jabateh-Oliseh and France-based Alseny Keita didn't help interim coach Thomas Kojo's quest for a resounding victory that would have rendered the return leg practically meaningless.

The visitors' strategy of putting men behind the ball or in Jose Mourinho's language of packing the bus and picking their opponents on the break was largely implemented. And coach Seephepha Matete was a happy man in his post-match news conference with reporters.

Lesotho twice came close to scoring but defenders Aloysius Samujaela and Teah Dennis were perfectly positioned to thwart their efforts. Thapelo Tale had the visitors’ first attempt on goal in the 10th minute when he was put through by Bokang Mothoana deep into the 18-yard box but left back Samujaela sprinted with a nice stop that resulted into a corner kick.

Liberia should have registered goal number one in the 15th minute from a goal mouth melee but Sherman, Laffor, Keita and Jabateh either had a slip or missed kick. And while the defensive quartet can celebrate the opportunities of having sparingly been tried and tested, the porous nature of the Wall of Monrovia will be reviewed when both sides square-off in Maseru.

The traditional game of seeing the left and right backs aiding in the attack by surging down the wings was evidently missing and Sherman was virtually on a holiday on the turf he played day in and day out as Barrack Young Controllers (BYC) won a back-to-back first division championship.

If Keita and Isaac Pupo were our midfield linchpins, then their pairing needs revision as they were severely woeful in their offensive and defensive displays and it was sad that Roosevelt Chris Jones was brought from Germany to serve as a Benjamin (an unused sub). Laffor's ability to defend must be applauded for a second or two but he will need a holy bath or two in order to be that striker who will bury two out of three chances in the danger area.

Liberia have the crucial three points and are spared from the bad dream of an away goal as she prepared for the return leg in June. But will Kojo's lads make the group stage with the old chorus of 'no money' still hunting their preparation ahead of a marathon qualifier. Your guess could be as good as mine. Congratulations to Liberia for yet another win since beating Uganda 2-0 in a 2014 World Cup qualifier on March 24, 2013 at the Samuel Kanyon Doe sports complex in Paynesville.

Liberia: 3-Teah Dennis, 1-Nathaniel Sherman, 4-Prince Jetoh, 5-Alseny Keita, 8-Alpha James, 9-Kpah Sherman (20-Elijah Clarke 62'), 10-Sekou Jabateh-Oliseh, 11-Isaac Pupo (6-Eddie Wulue 79'), 13-Aloysius Samujaela (Blama Kamara 76'), 15-Sam Kollie and 18-Anthony Laffor [captain].

Unused substitutes: 2-Nuwo Johnson, 7-Chris Roosevelt Jones, 12-Alvin McConnell and 16-Melvin King. Coach: Thomas Kojo Lesotho: 2-Sepiriti Malefane, 4-Motlalepula Mofolo, 5-Moitheri Ntobo, 7-Lekhanya Lekhanya (20-Tsepo Lekhoana 72'), 9-Thapelo Tale, 11-Tsoanelo Koetle (3-Basia Makepe 72'), 14-Bokang Mothoana,16-Kananelo Makhooane, 17-Bushy Moletsane, 18-Nkau Lerotholi and 21-Tsepo Seturumane (19-Mabuti Potloane 89').

Unused substitutes: 1-Likano Mphuthi, 6-Bokang Sello, 12, Phafa Tsosane and 15-Makara Ntaitsane, Coach: Seephepha Matelo.


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