Thousands of fans that descended at the National Cultural Centre Tarmac Tuesday night watched national champions Sparta Boss repel attack after attack and retaliate with clinical efficiency to cancel out defending
champions North Ruimveldt ambitions of retaining their title after beating them 3-2 in a gripping semi-final encounter that necessitated extra time to produce a winner.
In the preceding semi-final that many felt was the ideal forerunner for the feature game, giant killers Channel 9 Warriors continued from where they left off following their quarter-final upset over West Front Road ‘Gold is Money’ by claiming another big scalp, this time former national champions Back Circle who they defeated 2-0 in a penalty shootout after regulation and extra times failed to break a 1-1 deadlock.
Playing in the feature semi-final of the Georgetown Zone of the Guinness ‘Greatest of the Streets’ Futsal Competition, Sparta Boss made an emphatic statement to all pretenders to their throne by beating a well prepared North Ruimveldt unit that proved to be worthy champions, fighting all the way until the final whistle sounded in what has clearly been the game of the tournament so far.
The former champs, however, were clearly missing the services of the experienced Gerald Grittens who opted to play for North East La Penitence in this tournament, someone whose skill and stability at the back is a thorn for opposing teams.
North Ruimveldt took the lead through Joshua Browne, who gave himself enough room after receiving a pass from the left side, before hammering a fierce right-footer into the empty goal to send their supporters scurrying on to the tarmac in celebrations.
Here is where the absence of Grittens was missed as Sparta Boss’s response was swift and
deadly with Gregory Richardson leveling the proceedings one minute later. Richardson, who like strike partner Devon Millington joined the team after the completion of the Stag Elite League, dribbled his marker after collecting a pass from the back and punched his effort into the back of the goal.
The two teams continued to thrill the fans with some enticing football as the half neared and it remained deadlocked until the whistle sounded signaling half time. The resumption was a carbon copy of the first as Browne’s effort flew just outside the upright, while Sparta’s talisman Sheldon Shepherd watched agonizingly as his strike crashed into the side of the goal.
Both Denis Edwards and Millington missed from close range, while Travis Grant’s stinging shot was blocked by Shepherd in the nick of time. However, the lanky Solomon Austin, who was firing shots from long range intercepted a pass and in one motion delivered a thunderous strike into the back of the goal for a 2-1 North Ruimveldt lead.
Once again it was met with an immediate response from Sparta as Richardson completed his run with a firm shot past a surprised Austin at the back to square things. The battle was well and truly on, but solid defending and errant shooting kept the game tied until the whistle sounded to end regulation time.
Millington then sealed the win when he fired past two defenders to earn Sparta a hard fought win, but more importantly a place in Saturday’s final. Upstarts Channel 9 Warriors employed a well thought out tactical scheme to wear down the highly favoured Back Circle, before beating them via penalty kicks.
The tournament debutants used a defensive posture in the opening period of the game as Back Circle attacked with purpose, but just could not penetrate the Warriors backline. They were eventually caught on a counter attack by the Warriors that saw Kemo Lawrence hit a screamer past the last stop to hand them the early lead in the 10th minute.
This was another underdog that the fans embraced and they erupted with delight as they sensed an upset. The Warriors held that advantage until the break and came out after the resumption using the same strategy to frustrate Back Circle.
However, Duke, who was a constant threat finally found some space to fire past the last stop in the 31st minute of play to put things on par. It stayed that way even after extra time, but one could sense that Back Circle players were a spent force, having utilised every ounce of energy to get a positive result.
The younger Warriors opened up with a successful attempt, before Back Circle missed theirs to feel immediate pressure. Warriors’ next shooter strode up and unflappably placed his shot down the centre of the goal to give them a 2-0 lead which was never threatened after Back Circle missed their next attempt to hand Warriors a place in the final.
North Ruimveldt and Back Circle will vie for third place. The winning team will take home $500,000, the championship trophy and the right to represent the zone at the national tournament, while the second, third and fourth placed finishers receive $200,000, $150,000 and $100,000 respectively.
In the night’s full results: Game-1 – Back Circle-1 vs Channel-9-Warriors-1. Channel-9 won 2-0 on penalty kicks. Channel-9 Scorer Kemo Lawrence-10th; Back Circle Scorer Andy Duke-25th.
Game-2 – North Ruimveldt-2 vs Sparta Boss-3. Sparta Scorers Gregory Richardson-13th and 31st, Devon Millington-41st, North Scorers Joshua Browne-12th, Solomon Austin-30th.
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