By Michael Benjamin
It was a battle for supremacy that netted the winners the top spot in Group ‘D’ and
propelled them to the next round, closer to championship honours, and when the smoke was cleared, it was the Guyana Defense Force (GDF) that emerged victorious, 2-1 over Pele FC in the feature attraction of the 4th annual GFA/Banks Cup Round Robin knockout tournament at the GFC Ground last Monday evening.
Royan Morrison (30) scored first for the army and his feat was emulated by Eusi Phillips in the 86th minute while Jumane Sommerset kept Pele’s hopes alive up to the early stages of the second session.
The army uncharacteristically commenced their trek to the top at a sedate pace but Pele matched their efforts resulting in delightful early exchanges. Sommerset signaled his intentions early with a long shot which the GDF custodian, Seon Johnson, did well to hold on.
Pele raised the competitive level and kept up the pressure after Deon Alfred managed to steer the ball close to the army’s goal before unleashing a huge kick, which should have scored had not the player miss the ball altogether.
All this time, Morrison patrolled the left flank and when he was gifted a pass, he dribbled towards the opposition’s goal. Pele’s goalie advanced to intercept but Morrison changed angles and sent in a ripper to give his team the early advantage.
The army was on a high and Clifford Garraway attempted to emulate Morrison, dribbling down the left flank but one of the Pele defenders employed rough tactics and unceremoniously terminated his run. The referee decided that the tackle was harsh and gifted Garraway a free kick but the army defense consolidated with an impregnable wall that rendered the ensuing strike useless.
As the battle for supremacy continued, the soldiers continued to steal the spotlight and Sommerset was gifted a precise pass squarely in front of Pele’s goal; he hesitated for a fraction of a second giving the opposition’s defense enough time to converge and spoil the opportunity. Several exchanges, characterized by skilful maneuvering entertained the fans but failed to impact on the score and the GDF went in at the intermission enjoying a slim 1 nil lead.
The game was being contested at a hectic pace and light drizzles at the start of the second segment should have cooled down the pace. Instead, both teams turned up the heat and Deon Alfred attempted to seize the initiative for Pele, sprinting down the centre, only to be cut short by a vigilant Army defender.
Realizing that time was quickly dwindling, Pele upped the ante and midfielder, Konata Manning, took his chances with a fierce kick from the centre of the field; the ball missed the army’s goal altogether and slammed into the concrete wall.
Undaunted, another Pele player, Calvin Shepherd, latched on to a loose ball and steered it to the army’s goal but he was swarmed by the defenders who staunchly discouraged his advances. The striker persisted and was eventually rewarded, during a goal scrimmage, when he extricated himself and tucked in the equalizer.
The army’s response was quick; Phillips collected a pass, dribbled down the right wing and blasted the ball past the Pele custodian to regain the advantage. Pele is a determined team and those players were not prepared to give up that easily.
It was the dying stages of the game and they fought like tigers as both teams attacked and counter attacked. A corner kick taken by Sommersett offered the final hope for Pele but they were denied after the soldiers kicked out the ball. The soldiers then engaged in wide passes, using up valuable time until the shrill sound of the whistle sealed Pele’s fate.
Meanwhile, Flamingo FC’ Shem Porter registered a hat trick (12, 16, 82), Dwayne Layne a double (20:30) while Orin Parris and Vivian Crawford’s contribution came in the 59th and 66th minute respectively to see their team across the line.
For the first time since the inauguration of the tournament, the Guyana Police Force and GFC join the elite teams in the last 8 to battle onwards. They are among Western Tigers, Alpha, Rhythm Squad, Pele, Camptown and the GDF.
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