By Michael Benjamin
The game was replete with tactical blunders and unforgivable misses but in the end Gerald Wittington’s early success, a 7th minute goal, handed the Pele Football Club a well-deserved victory over Sunburst Camptown and the prestigious Kashif and Shanghai trophy when the curtains came down on the 19th Edition of that tournament at the National Stadium, Providence on Thursday night last.
Earlier in the evening, Bakewell Topp XX and the Guyana Defence Force necessitated extra time to determine which team would occupy the third place berth. Topp XX eventually prevailed twenty minutes into that segment, compliments of a Cary Harris effort.
A record-breaking attendance of some 17,000 screaming football fans, including President Bharrat Jagdeo, Minister of Culture, Youth and Sport Dr. Frank Anthony, President of the Guyana Football Federation, Colin Klass and representatives of the corporate community, crowded into the Stadium to witness a keen contest between the two teams.
From the onset, both teams seemed determined to procure top honours. It was during an early tussle for ball possession that Wittington managed to seize the initiative and slammed home his early success. The battle for supremacy continued when the referee awarded a free kick to Sunburst Camptown. The subsequent strike was unable to pierce the sturdy Camptown wall and instead, rebounded into play.
Midfielder, Reshawn Sanford collected the rebound and punched the ball past the Pele custodian sending his teammates into wild celebration. However, their ecstasy were short-lived when the referee ruled that Sanford was off side.
While Wittington’s early effort eventually sealed the issue for Pele, several blunders, including a missed penalty by Gregory ‘Jackie Chan’ Richardson, that should have widened Pele’s winning margin, ensured that the opening goal remained decisive.
The persistent Richardson had earlier charged down the left wing but found a fortress in the Camptown’s defence.
Five minutes later, playing in the same position, he again collected a perfect pass and sprinted towards the opposition’s goal. Desperate to stop Richardson’s charge, the Camptown defence intercepted dangerously, forcing the referee to award a penalty against his team. The quintessential Richardson was entrusted with the responsibility of converting the penalty. His teammates watched in dismay as unbelievably, the shot went wide and slammed into the uprights.
Sunburst Camptown was also guilty of tardy play. They also missed opportunities to equalize the situation. The most glaring occurred in the first half when Nigel Codrington’s muffed up a penalty kick with a strike that rebounded off the upright and back into play.
Down by one goal and determined to narrow the margin, Sunburst Camptown upped the ante in the second half of the game. However, their most valiant efforts were met with staunch resistance as Pele tightened its defence. Camptown earned another opportunity to equalize the score with a free kick from approximately 20 yards from the opposition’s goal. This time Troy Prescod was the culprit. His strike, a curling effort, breached the improvised wall but landed safely in the hands of the Pele custodian Shemroy Arthur.
As the game gathered momentum, Telson McKennon received marching orders after the referee ruled that he had intercepted dangerously in his attempt to wrest the ball from the opposition.
It was around this time that Richardson changed gear. With skill and dexterity he dribbled the ball past the opposition’s defence and slammed the ball towards the goal. It was a great effort, but Camptown’s Maurice Prince (in goal) alertness prevented any addition to the score. He snatched the ball out of the air, thus denying Richardson of what would have undoubtedly been the goal of the tournament.
As the game entered its closing moments, the persistent Richardson once again collected the ball and sprinted towards the Camptown goal. Only this time he switched the direction of play with a dolly of a pass to Travis Grant. Both players watched in dismay as the Camptown goalie, who was having a great game, plucked the ball out of the air. With the time left in the game quickly evaporating, Richardson made a last ditched effort to widen the score line. His pass to Okinie Fraser was good but the miss simply characterized the flagging fortunes that had beset Richardson for most of the game. The final whistle came with no addition to the score and changed his gloom to one of ecstasy.
Earlier in the evening, the GDF and Topp XX were required to battle in extra time to determine the third place position. The soldiers drew first blood when striker, Stellon David blasted in the first of two goals in the 2nd minute of the game.
Kayode McKinnon remained unruffled and equalized the situation in the 56th minute. A determined David handed the advantage back to the soldiers with a 70th minute strike. Two seconds later Top XX’s Cary Harris ensured that the game went into extra time when his shot nestled at the back of the opposition’s net. Harris returned and scored in the 20th minute of extra time that eventually proved to be the decider.
The organizers have deferred the presentation ceremony for a later date but Kaieteur Sport was able to ascertain that Elton Browne, the top goal scorer in the recently concluded Namilco Festival, has once again copped the prize for the most prolific goal scorer. The awards will be presented on a date to be announced.
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