Two penalties, one each either side of halftime gave Liberia a strong grip for qualification to the group stage of the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar in Monrovia on Wednesday 4th September.
Sierra Leoneans at the Samuel K. Stadium in Monrovia were left livid after seeing decisions contentiously given against the Leone Stars, giving the Liberians a two-goal advantage ahead of the second leg in Freetown, less than four days away.
The Lone Stars started the match buoyantly, hitting the woodwork in the first few kicks of the game.
The Liberians won their first of two penalties in the eighteenth minute after striker Kpah Sherman was adjudged by the referee to have been fouled by Ishmael Koroma (Jaw Jaw), a kick subsequently scored by Terrence Tisdell.
Sierra Leone though could not find rhythm to the game, with the team’s only half chance coming in the 41st minute through a brave surge by Abu Dumbuya, who forced a save from the Liberian goalkeeper. The Liberians got a bulk of the possession in the first half, creating clear cut chances, forcing a couple of good saves from Solomon Zombo Morris. The first half ended with just the one penalty goal from Terrence Tisdell
A different approach from Sierra Leone in the start of the second half changed the dynamics of the match, creating some nervous moments for the Liberians.
Sierra Leone’s good performance in the early stages of the second would subsequently give them the equaliser, courtesy of Kwame Quee, who slotted home Musa N. Kamara’s back headed ball in the 56th minute.
Liberia retook the lead in the 82nd minute from the 12 yard box by substitute Mohammed Sangare with another penalty which raised eyebrows, with many Sierra Leoneans protesting the decision.
Another defensive mix up between Ishmael Koroma and goalkeeper Zombo Morris was exploited by Sam Johnson to score Liberia’s third goal into an empty net, giving the Lone Stars a two-goal cushion ahead of the second leg on Sunday, 8th September at the Siaka Stevens Stadium in Freetown.
Wednesday’s victory for Liberia is their ninth (9) in seventeen meetings with just three wins for Sierra Leone and five draws.
Sierra Leone failed to make the group stage of qualifiers in 2015 for the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia loosing on away goal against Chad.
Sierra Leone needs to score two goals unanswered to gain qualification to the group stage or an equal result to Liberia’s which would take the match into penalties.