Jul 09, 2013 Sports
By Rawle Welch
Defending champions of Region Nine (Upper Mazaruni / Upper Takatu) St. Ignatius had to withstand a ferocious final 15 minutes of regulation time and then hold their nerves to defeat Annai 4-2 on penalty kicks in the 2013 Digicel Nationwide Schools Football regional final which ended on Sunday, at the St. Ignatius Sports Club ground.
Played before a capacity crowd that was attired in resplendent colours in an energetic atmosphere, regulation time failed to separate a 1-1 deadlock after both teams treated the fans to a fine exhibition of skill and determination, but none of them could gain the ascendancy before the final whistle came, sending the game into penalty kicks to determine which team would move on.
Annai, 4-1 winners over Aishalton two days earlier started confidently, going on the attack with the combination of Garville Daniels, who netted all four goals in their previous encounter and the nippy Shivraj Lall, playing on the left flank creating havoc for the St. Ignatius backline.
Lall especially was a joy to watch with his tremendous burst of speed and dribbling ability and those qualities repeatedly allowed him to get deep into the host goal area.
However, it wasn’t those elements that gave Annai the lead, but rather a moment of sheer magic when the uncontainable Lall picked up a pass from the back, inched a few paces forward, but instead of using his superior speed to get closer to the St. Ignatius goal, he somehow noticed goalkeeper Kessie DeSilva way off his line and hit a breathtaking left-footer from about 35 metres out that floated over the keeper’s head, before landing into the back of the goal.
It happened in the 13th minute of play and what followed was stunning silence. St. Ignatius looked as though they were the visiting team as Annai bouyed by their lead pushed forward in numbers aiming to increase their advantage, but that ploy proved to be their downfall as the talented Franklyn Parks, who has football saturated in his veins and who was proving to be a menace all afternoon collected a long ball from his defence and using his speed and strength headed towards goal, but was smashed to the ground by one of the opposing defenders, forcing referee Lenval Peart to not only signal a free kick, but also to whip out the yellow card.
Parks, who had already displayed his undeniable power from long range, delivered a thunderous shot from just outside the box that screamed past the outstretched hands of goalkeeper Burthland Scipio to nestle safely into the net in the 31st minute of play.
The scene that followed was euphoric as the home fans ran and screamed with joy. The two teams battled tenaciously to the half, but they failed to add another goal. The resumption saw a more positive approach by the St. Ignatius unit, but that was countered by a similar display from Annai and the crowd was treated to an afternoon of delightful football.
First, St. Ignatius’ Seon Kortright hammered a free kick onto the crossbar, before Parks shot from close range, but his effort crashed on to the left upright and allowed Scipio to recover to gather and avert further danger.
Annai’s chance to take the lead came next with their star player Daniels hitting a partial stop from Da Silva over the crossbar much to the amazement of his teammates. Both teams squandered opportunities to win the game as time ran out and Referee Peart signaled for penalty kicks to decide the outcome.
In the end, the placement and power of St. Ignatius players proved decisive, enabling them to advance to the next stage.
Digicel’s Head of Customer Care Sherwyn Osborne in his remarks before presenting the teams with their prizes thanked them for the fine exhibition of skills and guts and urged them to continue in the same vein.
Co-ordinator Megan Thomas also extended thanks to all three teams for their display and made special mention of Digicel for staging the games in the Lethem community. The winning team was presented with a trophy and medals, while Annai received new uniforms and medals.
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