PAYNESVILLE, Montserrado – The 2018 West African Football Union Under 20 Nations Cup hosted in Liberia has reached its final stage with the Young Scorpions of Gambia taking on Liberia’s Junior Lone Star.
The two finalists were decided on Wednesday, May 2 at the Samuel Kanyon Doe Sports Complex where the two semifinal matches were being played.
The two top favorites, Ivory Coast and Mali, failed to reach the final, while the two underdogs, Liberia and Gambia, made their way to the final stage.
Host Liberia made sure they were represented in the final of the WAFU youth tournament with a narrow 1-0 win over Mali’s U-20 team, which had been one of the best performers during the group stage games.
Liberia’s U-20 team came into the competition underprepared, compared to their counterparts, Mali, which had been holding regular trainings and just competed in the 2017 African U-20 Nations Cup hosted in Zambia.
However, Mali’s success on the continental stage couldn’t save them from the hands of a Junior Lone Star team that was desperate for success.
Bea Mountain’s striker, Musa Kebbay, was the man to save Liberia from the Malians again. Fresh from scoring a hat-trick against Sierra Leone in the last group stage game, Kebbay was again the hero by scoring the lone goal that dumped Mali.
His early goals against Guinea-Bissau and Sierra Leone were repeated in the presence of thousands of spectators with a goal in the 12th minute. After an opening which saw Liberia show some class on the ball, Kebbay scored from Edward Ledlum’s assist to increase his goals to five goals from four games.
Kebbay made his way through the Malian defense where Ledlum reached him with a through-pass before striking into the bottom right corner of Mali’s goal to beat goalkeeper Youssouf Keita.
Another early goal for Kebbay, another lead for Liberia, and the fans couldn’t hold back their joy as they began singing to motivate the players.
As with their previous two games against Sierra Leone and Guinea Bissau, the first half was heavily dominated by Liberia, although there were several chances wasted at increasing their lead. Sam Jackson’s heroic performance from Sierra Leone looked to have resurfaced with the Barrack Young Controller front-man coming close to scoring his first goal of the competition.
Jackson beat off the Malian defenders and goalkeeper in the 26th minute only to see his effort being denied by the goal post. LISCR FC’s Edward Ledlum put his disappointing time against Ivory Coast in the past, pulling out some beautiful performances in the first half, with two shots on goal which were saved by Keita.
The second half saw the Malians take control of the game. Although down by a goal, Mali continued searching for goal until the end of the match. However, their strong attacking force were consistently denied by a strong defense, led by Barrack Young Controller’s Jeremy Saygbeh. The newly signed BYC defender was instrumental in Liberia’s stopping the Malians from scoring.
When they did get through – with shots from Lassana Diaye, Hadji Drame and Mamadou Traore – they were excellently denied by goalkeeper Ashley Williams, whose fine goalkeeping has played a key role in the team’s success in this campaign.
After a hard fought win, Lone Star will be looking forward to completing the job on Saturday, May 5 when they take on Gambia, which defeated the tournament favorite, Ivory Coast, on post match penalties.
The two teams played to an entertaining 1-1 draw before Gambia won 6-5 on penalties to reach the final.
Featured photo by T. Kla Wesley Jr.