Sierra Leone v Benin

Sierra Leone 1-0 Benin Republic: Kamara sends Leone Stars through to Afcon

21:00 EAT 15/06/2021
Sierra Leone
The Minnesota United forward scored for John Keister’s men to deny the Squirrels a place at next year’s African football showpiece

Sierra Leone defeated Benin Republic 1-0 to qualify for the Africa Cup of Nations next year.

Kei Kamara’s first-half penalty was enough for the Leone Stars to defeat the Squirrels in the last Group L qualification fixture.

The crunch encounter, initially billed for Tuesday, March 30, at the National Stadium, Freetown did not take place owing to a Covid-19 controversy.

The Confederation of African Football moved the game to June 14 at the General Lansana Conte Stadium, yet the game did not go as planned owing to another Covid controversy.

However, the game was moved to Tuesday evening – as the result would determine the last team to secure a place for Cameroon 2022.

Although Michel Dussuyer’s Squirrels needed just a draw to scale through, they put up a strong fight against the hosts – who needed just a 1-0 win.

Six minutes into the game, the visitors had the first chance to draw the first blood, nevertheless, Steve Mounie’s header off Cebio Soukou’s free-kick was saved by goalkeeper Mohamed Kamara.

Sierra Leone’s first chance came in the 14th minute, but Augustine Williams could not convert a beautiful cross from Sullay Kaikai.

Four minutes later, Keister’s men were awarded a penalty after captain Khaled Adenon handled the ball in his own area. Tunisian Fifa referee Haythem Guirat pointed to the penalty mark while cautioning the Avranches defender.

36-year-old Kamara took the ensuing kick and expertly sent the ball past goalkeeper Saturnin Allagbe.

That goal woke the Squirrels from their slumber. Even at that, they were unable to equalise and sadly missed out on the 2021 Afcon after the full-time whistle. 

With this result, Sierra Leone have ended their 26-year Africa Cup of Nations hiatus. Their last outing was at the 1996 edition staged in South Africa.

There, they crashed out of the preliminary round after failing to qualify from Group B that paraded Zambia, Algeria and Burkina Faso.

Before the encounter, coach Keister had revealed that there was no pressure within his squad.

"There is no pressure. Our ultimate goal is to qualify for the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations, and there is no discomfort within our squad,” Keister told Caf website.

"This squad is a blend of both young and experienced players; I've rationally selected 11 local and 15 foreign-based players.

“Thankfully, despite the numerous challenges, we succeeded to arrange a camp and let our players train together in Freetown since last Monday.

"What I need now is support from our fans at home and abroad. Already there is a huge willingness among the players and the whole nation wants us to qualify.

“So, I'm on to guide the team to get the best result against Benin and proceed to Cameroon next year."