By Michael Benjamin
A fierce battle for a place in the final of the GFA/Banks Beer Cup Football tournament ensued when Western Tigers FC opposed New Amsterdam United (NAU) in the preliminary match to that of the Rhythm Squad encounter with Santos FC. When the smoke was cleared, Rhythm Squad triumphed 3-2 on penalty kicks, while Western Tigers mauled their opponents 3-0 to set up a potentially thrilling encounter between the two winners at the National Stadium Providence, tomorrow night.
The action was at the GFC Ground and saw the Tigers advancing after goals from Ryan Adolph (72), Dwayne Ali (82) and Rudolph Wagner (85). Santos’ Jobe Caesar scored during regulation time, while Kester Joseph returned the situation to equilibrium which prevailed right up to regulation and subsequently, extra time before penalty kicks separated the two teams.
Early showers had left the venue in a dampened state and a chilly breeze wafted across the venue. Maybe, this environment contributed in large part to the lukewarm approach of both teams in the first half of the Western/NAU encounter.
Apparently warmed up, both teams approached the second session with vigor and Wagner’s success came from a corner kick that landed plumb on his ‘sugar foot’ where he swiveled and sunk the ball into the network. Ali’s goal came after a similar corner kick had cannoned into the NAU goalkeeper’s legs and back into play for the stocky striker to dive forward with a classic header that steamed past the goalkeeper. Wagner’s goal was really opportunistic as the dapper striker latched onto a loose ball in front of the goal which he deftly struck past the ‘keeper.’
Jobe Caesar sent in Santos’ first try at goal, a vicious shot that lacked direction and slid down the left of the opposition’s goal. He made amends shortly afterwards when he intercepted a pass from the left flank, merely ten meters from the goal. The dapper striker then shrewdly lured the goalkeeper out of his comfort zone to tuck the ball past him and into the goal.
Dwayne McLennan was also working hard in the midfield area and he managed to steer the ball deep into Rhythm Squad’s territory before he was stopped by the marauding defenders. This was just before the players engaged in a keen tussle for possession in front of Santos’ goal mouth where Rhythm Squad were gifted a penalty after one of their players was fouled in the box. Sceyon Hope took the shot and his mighty kick zipped past the outstretched hands of the Santos custodian and the score was 1-1.
Kester Joseph should have pushed his team ahead but the RS player fumbled with the ball for a fraction of a second to allow the keeper to fire a kick which sent the ball soaring into the middle of the field thus averting disaster. With no further success, the players went in at the intermission stalemated at 1 goal apiece.
McLennan featured early upon resumption when he adroitly steered the ball to RS goal and unleashed a thunderous kick which the custodian, Derwin Bennette, did well to intercept.
The tussle to assume the ascendency continued and resulted in Santos striker, Orin Yarde, receiving a yellow card after an over-exuberant tackle. Travis Fitzpatrick next dribbled up to the RS defenders but just could not get past the impregnable wall. The game continued at a frenetic pace but none of the teams could have found the magic to surge ahead resulting in overtime and subsequently penalties where Rhythm Squad prevailed.
Fans could now look forward to tomorrow night’s encounter which features New Amsterdam United up against Santos FC in the 3rd place playoff just before the championship battle at around 20:30hrs.
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