Liberty Professionals yesterday qualified for the next stage of the Confederations Cup after holding Stade du Tunis 1-1 to qualify on a 4-3 aggregate.A brilliant goal by Michael Helegbe from a well-executed freekick gave Liberty the knockout punch to silence the home team and get the needed morale booster in the face of biased officiating by the Algerian match officials.
Liberty's qualification was a result of good match tactics and divine intervention. Not only did the referee award the Tunisians a dubious penalty that allowed them to equalise in the 70th minute, but also he sent off Liberty's wing-back Wahid Mohammed in the latter minutes of the game when Stade were desperately for another goal.
Somehow the hand of God intervened in injury time as the referee changed his mind to add five extra minutes, upon the prompting of his assistant who indicated to the referee that the extra minutes added were too much.
Just as the home team were trying to capitalise on the 'bonus' minutes, the referee whistled to end the game, throwing the Stade Chedy Zouiten and the 25,000 home fans into dead silence while Liberty players, officials and a handful of Ghanaian fans present celebrated deep into the night.
Determined to avoid elimination, Liberty coach Sellas Tetteh packed his defence and midfield and played only one striker on top. The approach proved a masterclass as Liberty managed to soak pressure upon pressure from a rampaging Tunisien attack buoyed by a sympathetic referee who aided them with several freekicks.
Liberty lived dangerously in the early minutes of the game but each time the Tunisians came close to scoring they found the Ghanaian defence as solid as a rock. Liberty were very cautious in the second half, and just when they went on the offensive, the Tunisians were caught pants down in the 60th minute when Helegbe's marker handled the ball in the penalty box. Instead of a spot kick, the referee awarded a freekick outside the 18-yard box.
As the Tunisian's expected a direct shot at goal, Helegbe ghosted behind the defensive wall to receive a pass. He moved into the Tunisien '18' and rifled a carpet shot beyond the reach of goalkeeper Dejaui Hassen.
Liberty's goalie Patrick Antwi put up a man-of-the-match performance to deny Stade several scoring opportunities, but he could not save Boussaidi Anis' equaliser which was well executed. But it proved too little, too late to rescue the home team from elimination.