Liberia’s FA Cup and First Division champions LISCR Football Club has completed its week long preseason camp in neighboring country Sierra Leone where they played three test matches before their return to Liberia.
As part of their preparations for the new Liberia league season which opening date is yet unknown and the 2018 CAF Champions League which will begin February, the Shipping Boys moved outside the country to test themselves against the Sierra Leoneans. After more than two months of preparation in which12 games were played and won, there were expectations of the Shipping Boys returning to Liberia with positive results from the Leone Stars nation. However, the expectations of positive results were the opposite with LISCR returning home without a single win.
They departed the country on Friday, January 5 through the Grand Cape Mount border and arrived in Makeni, Sierra Leone on Saturday, January 6 where they had the week-long camp. The team arrived at 3:00 AM and rested until the evening hours when they held their first training session at the Wusum Field which was the venue of the three matches. The Shipping Boys conducted their first training session on a cold Saturday evening in Makeni ahead of their first match on Sunday, January 7.
Just less than a day after more than 18 hours journey from Liberia to Sierra Leone, the Liberia first division champions took the pitch to honor their first match against the 2017 Sierra Leone President Cup Champions, Wusum Stars Football Club. The two sides played to a goalless draw in the first half with LISCR throwing away several opportunities that would have sent them to the break with the lead including a missed penalty by Sheku Sheriff. Back from the break, the Shipping Boys got the curtain raiser through their Gambian star player, Bully Drammeh who shot nine meters to beat Wusum Stars goalkeeper, Peter Sesay. Bully put LISCR ahead in the 57th minute and the Liberian side led the match until the 82nd minute when Wusum Stars got the score leveled through Mohamed Kamara. Neither side was able to get on the scoring sheet again in the remaining eight minutes as the match with a goal apiece.
After the match, LISCR FC head coach, Tapha Manneh blamed is players for the result for failing to make use of their scoring opportunities. However, he promised to win his second match against Marampa Stars Football Club which later became the most disappointing one.
Unlike the first match where they were held to a 1-1 draw, they failed to get on the scoresheet in the full 90 minutes as they bowed to a disappointing 2-0 defeat to Marampa Stars. Even more discouraging than the match against Wusum Stars, the front liners of LISCR FC played a key role in the team’s defeat with poor finishing touches. Striker Mark Paye, Christopher Jackson, Morris Vambo and Amadiah Kawah al threw away golden opportunities that should have won LISCR the match. Alhassan Koroma scored in the 37th minute to give Marampa the lead in the first half. The Sierra Leoneans went to the break with a goal up and doubled their lead in the 74th minute through Alusine Koroma who is a twin brother to the first goal scorer.
Two games without a win, the final match against the Sierra Leone national team became the most important and difficult one for Tapha Manneh’s team that was in search of a win. The Gambian tactician was so much in search of win as he featured a strong team in which all his top guns including Gambian striker, Mustapha Njie, striker Christopher Jackson, former BYC hitman, Mark Paye and Gambian winger Bully Drammeh up front. Gambian defender, Adama Sabally and former BYC defender, Kemoh Kamara stood in center defense while Hilton Varney formerly of BYC played at left-back and Asiamuh Dann at the right-back position. Sheku Sheriff commonly called â€œBall Passerâ€ and former county meet star player Allen Njie played the middle for LISCR while Liberia national team goalkeeper, Tommy Songo stood in goal.
Despite a strong starting eleven, it was the Leone Stars that took the lead at the Wusum Field. Sierra Leone Premier League club, FC Johansen star striker Abdul Bangura fired with a right-foot volley in the 11th minute to beat LISCR goalkeeper, Tommy Songo. The Shipping Boys weren’t deterred by the early lead as they pushed for an equalizer. A minute to end the first half, Sheku Sheriff came to the rescue of LISCR when he leveled the score with a shot from 17 meters.
The first half ended with a goal apiece and it was LISCR that returned stronger after the break. The second half became the most interesting portion of all LISCR three matches with several dramas between the two teams and the match officials. Controversially, LISCR was denied of taking the lead in the 56th minute when Gambian center defender header appeared to have crossed the crossbar before cleared out by Kemson Fofanah who was positioned behind the touchline. In the 62nd minutes, LISCR again got another goal that was controversially ruled out for offside. Mark Paye header from Hilton Varney’s cross beat Ibrahim Trawalie in goal but was canceled by the assistant referee.
Nine minutes after controversially ruling out Mark Paye’s goal, Sierra Leone was awarded a penalty for a hand ball by Asiamuh Dann who was trying to clear the ball off his danger zone. Kemson Fofanah converted the penalty and give Sierra Leone the lead which later became the match winning goal.
LISCR may have lost against the Sierra Leone national team, but their head coach Tapha Manneh was proud of his team he described as fighting team. The LISCR boss praised his side for their performance and promised to work on his side finishing touches ahead of their CAF Champions League preliminary round first leg match against Al Hilal on February 11.
The results from Sierra Leone are no doubt discouraging, but came at the time the club is preparing for the crunch encounter against Al Hilal. LISCR will now have to work on their lapses within time if they live their dream of reaching the first round of the 2018 CAF Champions League.