The Leone Stars delivered an impressive performance against the 'elephants' of the Ivory Coast, despite very limited preparations due to the late confirmation of the game in Abidjan, Ivory Coast. (6 Sep 2014)
After a week of speculation that the game would not go ahead, due to restrictions placed on entry by the Ivorian Government, the game was only finally confirmed by the Ivorian FA on Monday, just some 5 days before the opening Group D AFCON qualifier.
The associated travel difficulties meant that the majority of the Sierra Leone team were only able to begin practice on Thursday, with the final 5 squad members only arriving on Friday evening, less than 24 hours before kick off.
First Half Performance
In the game, the Ivorians sought to hold possession in the first half but were largely restricted to midfield areas. Both teams had a couple of chances in the first half - including an overhead kick on goal by Alhassan 'Crespo' Kamara. The Ivorians sought to push higher towards the end of the first half which allowed the Leone Stars to exploit spaces in behind and soon the Leone Stars went ahead from a goal by Kei Kamara after 43 minutes.
Asked for his views on the first half, Coach McKinstry said
"We knew that Ivory Coast, in their home stadium, would be strong and would want to hold possession. A key point for us was ensure any possession they had was in areas that didn't hurt us, and we were successful at that for the entirety of the first half. For the first 30 minutes Cheick Tioté and Yaya Touré played mainly in their own half".
"Ivory Coast did push out a little in last 15 minutes of the first half, but because of that we were able to take advantage of the space behind to get the goal."
Leone Stars Score to move 1-0 ahead
The goal scored by Kei Kamara to give the Leone Stars a 1-0 lead after 43 minutes was the first time Sierra Leone have ever scored a goal against the Ivory Coast.
On the goal, Coach McKinstry said:
"Kei Kamara performed very well from an advanced midfield position, he managed to get himself free at the back post and put a great finish onto a cross from George Davies on the left wing. Kei came on hungry, looking to perform, and we hope this performance helps him to seal a new contract".
Half Time and Injuries
The Leone Stars were forced to make 2 changes at half time due to the injury of George Davies and Alfred Sankoh.
"We had been largely content with the performance in first half, with only one or 2 small things to address in the dressing room. Our biggest problem was injuries. George Davies was unable to continue, and this was a considerable loss as he had given Ivory Coast problems again and again in the first half. Having given him his debut against Tunisia last year, I was pleased to see him make such an impact on his return to the squad, and to be instrumental in our goal scoring opportunity."
"Alfred Sankoh had also been struggling at half time. We decided to try him for a few minutes ..but had to bring him off pretty much straight away. Two unplanned changes at half time is very difficult for any team."
The Leone Stars came out strong in the second half, contolling more of Ivorian territory. The second half saw the continuation of a very physical game from both teams with Alhassan 'Crespo' Kamara ultimately requiring 2 stitches following a direct clash. The Ivory Coast equalised, and then quickly capitalised on an error a few moments later, to go 2-1 ahead in the 66th minute. The Leone Stars sought to remedy the matter in the last 15 minutes - pushing players forwards and deploying three strikers, but despite some chances a goal did not materialise.
On the second half performance, Coach McKinstry said:
"We started strongly in the second half, the players were buoyed by their goal, they moved possession into the Ivorian half and were looking for chances. The Ivory Coast settled into the game and unfortunately a couple of simple mistakes allowed them to score. We sought to equalise in the last 15 minutes, getting players to push forwards into more attacking positions."
"As goal difference is not an issue in the group we were looking for a draw or the win. However, the Ivory Coast is a very experienced team - they have been to World Cups and Cup of Nation's Finals - and when they get into the last 10 minutes they know how to see games out."
On their overall performance, Coach McKinstry was clear:
"We have a young team, who are still learning, and who despite almost no preparation as a team this week, delivered a hard fought and excellent performance today.
If we can secure appropriate preparation time ahead of our future games, the sort of attitude and performance displayed today will stand the Leone Stars in good stead as the seek to advance to AFCON 2015 and build for the future."
- Solomon Zombo Morris - US Quevily (France)
- Umaru Bangura - Dynamo Minsk (Belarus)
- David Simbo - Al Hilal (Sudan)
- Sheriff Suma - Syrianska (Sweden)
- Mustapha Dumbuya - Notts County (England)
- Mohamed Kamara - Bolton Wanderers (England)
- Alfred Sankoh - Khazar Lankaran (Azerbeijan)
- George Davies - (Germany)
- Alhassan Kamara - Orebo (Sweden)
- Khalifa Jabbie - Balikesirspor (Turkey)
- Kei Kamara - (England)
- John Trye - ASA Charge (USA)
- Mohamed Kamanor - UMEA (Sweden)
- Abdul Rahman Bangura - Atlanta Silverbacks (USA)
- Michael Lahoud - Philadelphia Union (USA)
- Julius Wobay - Neftchi Baku (Azerbeijan)
- Ibrahim Kallay - Lulea (Sweden)
- Alhaji Kamara - Norrkoping (Sweden)
Next Game in Group D of AFCON 2015 Qualifiers
The Leone Stars will play DR Congo on Wed 10 Sept 2014. This is a home fixture, but due to concerns over the potential spread of Ebola, the game will be played in Lubumbashi, DR Congo.
You can click any of the pictures below to see a full screen version of the picture. You can then also choose to click the play arrow to watch a slide show of all images.
For news and pictures of Leone Stars games and training camps - visit www.johnnymckinstry.com/leonestars
Notes to Editors
- The game is the first game in the Group D qualifiers as part of AFCON 2015 - against Ivory Coast (away leg) on 6 Sep 2014.
- You can read more about the AFCON 2015 tournament and the Leone Stars fixtures.
- Johnny McKinstry was appointed Head Coach of the Sierra Leone National Men's Football team on 11th April 2013. You can read more about his time in charge of the Leone Stars
- See www.johnnymckinstry.com for a range of information - biography, press releases and photographs for press use.