MONROVIA, Montserrado â€”Â 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 CÃ´te d’IvoireÂ 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.Â The Malaysian-based striker suffered a severe heart burn and was substituted after spending just 18 minutes on theÂ 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 inÂ CÃ´te d’IvoireÂ will present better results and the Lone Star might come homeÂ with a win.
â€œIt wasnâ€™t to be, but weâ€™ve got a game just around the corner [againstÂ CÃ´te d’Ivoire]Â and I think itâ€™s only good for us,” he told The Bush Chicken. “Weâ€™ll get back up and try to win that game. I think itâ€™s the best thing for usÂ when we feel that weâ€™ve lost.”
“Iâ€™m sure weâ€™ll start scoring many goals soon. Weâ€™ve got so much quality up front that itâ€™s only a matter of time before someone puts one away and weâ€™ll be flying again.â€
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.
â€œWith the chances we created throughout the match, I think if weâ€™d put one of those away, it would have been game over forÂ CÃ´te d’Ivoire,” he added.
“I think they wouldnâ€™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 didnâ€™t put them away. Their manager even said that it was probably the best heâ€™s seen from us so far. We had so many chances and just needed to finish them.”
But, with the one goal providingÂ CÃ´te d’Ivoire with aÂ 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 againstÂ CÃ´te d’IvoireÂ onÂ home soil.
Featured photo by Augustus Audekina-Doe