MONROVIA, Montserrado — Thousands of Liberian soccer fans around the globe were disappointed on Friday evening after the Lone Star of Liberia suffered a 1-0 defeat to the Elephants of Côte d’Ivoire at the Antoinette Tubman Stadium in the second preliminary qualifying round for the 2018 Russia FIFA World Cup.
Gohi Bi Zoro Cyriac of Belgium Pro League club Koninklijke Voetbalclub Oostende scored the only goal of the match in the 43rd minute.
The Lone Star displayed a high quality of football in the first half but was unable to convert their chances into a goal.
Patrick Ronaldinho Wleh’s first game under coach James Debbah turned out to be disappointing, compared to what was expected by football pundits. The Malaysian-based striker suffered a severe heart burn and was substituted after spending just 18 minutes on the pitch.
Though the Lone Star went to the half-time break down a goal, fans still had the hope of their team making a possible comeback, due to their brilliant display in the first 45 minutes.
Both sides made early substitutions in the second half, to build some much-needed momentum. The defences pulled out intense fights as most of the play took place in the middle of the field, making it difficult for either side to get a goal.
Friday’s defeat puts the Lone Star’s hopes of playing in the 2018 Russia FIFA World Cup in doubt. The return match is expected to be played on the 17th of this month.
Captain Teah Dennis believes Liberia was unlucky in its loss. He said the second leg in Côte d’Ivoire will present better results and the Lone Star might come home with a win.
“It wasn’t to be, but we’ve got a game just around the corner [against Côte d’Ivoire] and I think it’s only good for us,” he told The Bush Chicken. “We’ll get back up and try to win that game. I think it’s the best thing for us when we feel that we’ve lost.”
“I’m sure we’ll start scoring many goals soon. We’ve got so much quality up front that it’s only a matter of time before someone puts one away and we’ll be flying again.”
The center defender was disappointed that Liberia failed to capitalize on an impressive first-half spell against the Elephants but felt the Lone Star were unlucky in that singular goal.
“With the chances we created throughout the match, I think if we’d put one of those away, it would have been game over for Côte d’Ivoire,” he added.
“I think they wouldn’t have been able to get back into the game if they were a goal down. Everyone [were] really disappointed in the dressing room. I think we created so many chances; unfortunately, we didn’t put them away. Their manager even said that it was probably the best he’s seen from us so far. We had so many chances and just needed to finish them.”
But, with the one goal providing Côte d’Ivoire with a first leg advantage in an away, the Lone Star will have a tall order in the second leg in Abidjan next Tuesday.
Friday’s win means the Elephants have never lost to Liberia with 11 wins and three draws. Lone Star has also failed to score against Côte d’Ivoire on home soil.
Featured photo by Augustus Audekina-Doe