The Samuel Kayon Doe Sports Stadium was on Tuesday, March 28, 2023 a scene of sadness, heartbreak and total disappointment after South Africa defeated Liberia to qualify for the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) in Côte d’Ivoire.
This came after Liberians across the country were excited to watch their Lone Star play on home soil for the first time in more than three years coupled with the crucial nature of the fixture.
However, a win would have taken Liberia to her third AfCON tournament scheduled to take place in neighboring Ivory Coast in November but that hope suddenly came to an end after the match center referee blew the final whistle.
Furthermore, Liberia lost to South Africa on home soil came few days after a comeback from two goals down to settle for a draw in the first leg, which took place in South Africa. Liberians then celebrated the draw away from home with a hope to defeat the Bafana Bafana Boys to qualify for the upcoming AFCON.
However, goals from Zakhele Lepasa and Mihlali Mayambela helped the South Africans to return to the Nations Cup after missing the last edition in 2022 thus extending Liberia’s 21 years of waiting to participate in the tournament.
Bafana secured the four points needed to qualify alongside group leaders Morocco, who have six points, from Group K for the tournament. The South Africans took the lead in the 19th minute when Lepasa perfectly converted a one-on-one chance to beat goalkeeper Tommy Songo’s.
Liberia, who had made the most of their attacks, leveled the game in the 35th minute with William Jebor scoring his 13th national team goal through a low long-range shot that goalkeeper Ronwen Williams got his hands on, but could not prevent it from entering the back of the net.
Coach Ansu Keita, who made just a single change in his starting lineup by replacing Jamal Arago with Allen Njie, made a double substitution, thus introducing Mohammed Sangare and Tonia Tisdell, who both scored in the first leg, but the South Africans stood firm and found the back of the neat after Percy Tau drove down the left flank and sent a low ball toward the near post, but goalkeeper Songo’s fumbled, allowing Mayambele to send in the rebound to seal their qualification in the 53rd minute.
It’s been 21 years since Liberia last played in the competition and have come closer to securing a slot in the finals of the competition, but missed out once again. The next edition of the biannual tournament will be held in January 2024 in Côte d’Ivoire.