OMBDURMAN, Sudan – Liberia’s LISCR Football Club has been thrown out of the 2018 CAF Champions League after losing to Sudanese Premier League giant Al-Hilal 3-1 on aggregate.
The Liberian side won the first leg 1-0 in Monrovia on February 11 but failed to defend their lead in the return leg as they bowed to a 3-0 defeat in Sudan on Tuesday, February 20.
The Shipping Boys shocked the footballing world when they grabbed a win over Hilal in a match where they were considered the underdogs. Just their third Champions League appearance, the Gardnersville-based club had a mountain to climb against an Al-Hilal team that has never missed out on reaching the group stage since 1966.
The narrow 1-0 win in Monrovia put LISCR in the driving seat as they went into the return leg with the advantage, they had more work to do against the Sudanese side. Unlike the first leg where they managed to get a goal, LISCR failed to register a goal in Sudan as Hilal went on to do all the celebration at the Blue Jewel Stadium.
LISCR’s Coach Tapha Manneh made six changes on the team that beat Al-Hilal at the Antoinette Tubman Stadium.
Saah Nyumah, Adama Sabally, Hilton Varney, and Edward Ledlum were named in the first 11 while Gambian striker Mustapha Njie, left-back Daniel Woto, and center-back Emmanuel Tarpeh were dropped to the bench. Sabally missed out on the first leg in Monrovia due to a minor injury and he was replaced by Richard Lloyd.
Tommy Songo remained in goal, and Bully Drammeh, Sheku Sheriff, Kemoh Kamara, Asiamuh Dann, and Mark Paye all retained their positions as starters. Saah Nyumah, who didn’t make an appearance in the first leg, partnered Allen Njie and Sheku Sheriff in midfield while Bully Drammeh, Mark Paye, and Edward Ledlum led the front. Asiamuh Dann was retained at right-back, with Adama Sabally and Kemoh Kamara paired at the center of the defense, while Hilton Varney replaced Daniel Woto as left-back in a 4-2-3-1 formation.
Coach Manneh’s hopes of an early attack on the Sudanese and preventing conceding early goals turned out to be the opposite as he saw his side give up a goal just two minutes into the game. Mohamed Ahmed Bashir scored Hilal’s first goal with a diving header from Nigerian midfielder Azeez Shobola’s cross.
With the score at 1-0 at the jam-packed 60,000-seater Blue Jewel Stadium, LISCR now hoped to get a goal before the end of the first half or to hold on to the 1-0 score until the end of the match to push their hosts to penalty kicks.
Searching for an equalizer, LISCR’s Bully Drammeh came close to getting the score leveled in the 11th minute with a shot that was saved by Hilal’s goalkeeper, Maxime Feudjou. The early minutes of the match turned out to be a tough one for LISCR that had to play majority of the game in their own half.
The host kept the Shipping Boys on their toes as they were desperately in search of their second. LISCR conceded early but managed to contain the Sudanese as they prevented them from scoring again until in the last minutes of the first half.
Hilal went to the break with a comfortable two-goal lead after Mohamed Bahir doubled the score. The 30-year-old Sudanese tapped in a cross in the 44th minute to get his second goal of the match.
With the score 2-0 in favor of Hilal there being less than a minute to end the first half, it was LISCR that needed a goal to keep their qualification hopes alive. Hilal had overturned the one goal deficit and headed to the break with the advantage.
Back from the break, Tapha Manneh made two early changes, returning to his normal 4-4-2 formation while in search of a goal. Saah Nyumah was brought down for Gambian striker, Mustapha Njie while Amadiah Kawah was introduced for Bully Drammeh. Mannehs return to his usual formation looked to be the right decision as his side began to put up some fight against Hilal. Three minutes into the second half, Ledlum was brought down at the edge of the box and LISCR was awarded a set-piece. It was a wasted opportunity as Sheku Sheriff shot way off target.
Hilal laid the game to rest in the 65th minute by scoring their third goal of the match to kill LISCR’s hopes of qualification. Sharaf Shaiboub made it three for the host with an easy touch right in the six-yard box.
With the score at 3-0, LISCR needed to score two goals before the end of the 90 minutes to get a place in the next round of the CAF Champions League. Unfortunately for the Shipping Boys, the goals weren’t coming as their task became heavier than expected.
Their closest chance was in the 83rd minute when Mustapha Njie came close to getting the ball at the back of the net. The Gambian striker was on time to head in Daniel Woto’s cross. The former Bomabada striker saw his efforts beating Maxime Feudjou’s before seeing the bar deny him the chance of registering his name on the scoresheet.
Seven minutes after coming close to getting a goal, Hilal kept the ball to their feet to prevent LISCR from causing a late damage. The Sudanese controlled the ball for the final minutes of the match as they went on to defeat their visitors 3-0.
The defeat means LISCR’s fight of crossing the preliminary round of the CAF Champions League continues. The Shipping Boys have never the crossed the preliminary round on three occasions. They failed in 2012 against Berekum Chelsea of Ghana and in 2013 against Union Douala of Cameroon.
LISCR will now continue their preparations for the upcoming season. The kickoff date has yet to be announced by the Liberia Football Association.
Featured photo by T. Kla Wesley Jr.