Leone Stars warming up before the match (Photo credit: SWASAL)

By Mohamed Fajah Barrie in USA

A 10-man Leone Stars team have narrowly lost to The Panthers of Gabon 2-1 in a match counted as a friendly international in Franceville on Friday.

The match was part of the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers (AFCON) group I schedule but no points were on offer as Gabon will host the finals in January.

CAF African player of the year and Borussia Dortsmund forward Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang gave Gabon the lead in the 36th minute from the penalty spot after Moldova based defender Aziz Deen-Conteh was sent off for a disputed hand ball that resulted in a penalty.

Evouna Malick increased the lead 12 minutes after the break before substitute Sheka Fofanah  got the consolation goal for Sierra Leone in the 80th minute after receiving a pass from Finland based Mohamed ‘Medo’ Kamara.

It was the first international goal for Fofanah who plays for local club Freetown City FC

Sierra Leone fought hard to equalise despite playing with ten men for the better part of the game but didn’t succeed.

The new FIFA President Gianni Infantino, CAF President Issa Hayatou and the Gabonese President Ali Bongo Ondimba were among spectators at Franceville stadium as they unveiled the mascot for the 2017 AFCON finals before the match kicked-off.

Sierra Leone played most of the game with 10-men after Moldova based defender Aziz Deen-Conteh was sent off for a hand ball mid way of the first half.

It was the fifth meeting between Sierra Leone and Gabon with the latter winning three at home and the former securing two victories in Freetown.

Sierra Leone will host Gabon in the return leg in Freetown on Monday.

Sierra Leone remain bottom of group I with just a point, three points below African champions Ivory Coast who have gone top of the league after defeating Sudan 1-0 in Abidjan on Friday.

Stirker Gervinho got the goal in the 34th minute to register his 21st goal for the Elephants.

Sudan are in second position with three points after the second round of matches.

Leone Stars starting line-up:

Goalkeeper – Solomon Zombo Morris (GK), Umaru Bangura (C), David Simbo, Abdul Aziz Deen-Conteh, Yeami Dunia, Mohamed Kamara, Abdul Sesay, Kwame Quee, Abu Kanu, Mustapha Bangura, Mohamed Bangura

Coach Sellas Tetteh

The Panthers starting line-up:

Ovono Ebang Didier (GK), Musavu King Yrondu (C), Ecuele Manga Bruno, Obiang Johann, Otoo Zue Randal, Lemina Mario Rene Junior, Tandjigora Merlin, Ndong Ibrahim Didier, Madinda Levy-Clement, Evouna Malick, Aubameyang Piere Emeric.

Coach: Jorge Costa