By Zaheer Mohamed
Nicholas Mc Arthur who was named the Most Valuable Player and also ended as the Highest Goal Scorer of the tournament struck twice in the second half to lead Fruta Conquerors to a 2-0 victory over Santos Football Club in the final of the Petra Organisation/Limacol Football tournament contested on Sunday night at Ministry of Education Ground, Carifesta Avenue.
In the historic match that saw two Under-20 teams battling for the championship prize in a senior tournament for the first time, which seemed destined for penalty kicks after regulation time and the first half of the extra time failed to separate the teams; Mc Arthur showed why he is considered one of the best youth player in Guyana when he blasted a double in the closing stages of the encounter.
Following a sloppy start to the final, both teams gradually gained confidence and Fruta Conquerors had the first opportunity to score, but the shot went wide of goal. Scoring opportunities hardly presented itself thereafter in the first half.
The second half provided much more excitement as both teams shared possession almost equally and created much more scoring opportunities, but failed to finish which forced the game into extra time.
Santos had several shots turned away by goalkeeper Joel Yhap while Conquerors sent a few over the cross bar, and despite some showers, neither team managed to pierce the opposing defence until Mc Arthur’s brilliance.
Three minutes from time (117th minute) the forward latched on the pass and found the back of the net from inside the area to hand his team the lead. Mc Arthur then stretched the advantage moments later when he collected a pass from midfield and worked his way into the area before beating the goalkeeper from the left side of the box.
Shortly after the final whistle was sounded which sparked wild celebrations among the players and fans. In the third place playoff, Wendell Joseph netted to hand Riddim Squad a 1-0 victory over Pele FC.
Both teams provided the fans with much excitement as they were denied on several occasions, until Joseph sealed the winner in the 85th minute. Mc Arthur, who was voted the Most Valuable Player, told the media that the game was not as easy as it seems and credited the opposition for their efforts.
“I had to work hard for my goals, the players came out and put in the efforts and this is a special title for the team,” he added.
Guyana Football Federation (GFF) President Wayne Forde commended the finalists: “One of the first strategic decisions we took in 2016, was that we allowed the elite league clubs all the way up to U17 to continue playing at the association level because we felt that it gives them an opportunity to match skills with their peers and increase their playing hours.
We also felt that it may also make sense to have the U20 teams because what we recognised is that some clubs had a lot of players at the U20 level and they are not breaking into the main squad and not getting competitive games, so all of the elite league clubs, their U20 teams will be able to play in the association knock out tournaments. That is now part of the new regulations and you will see more of it.”
Forde said: “It’s surprising to see the U20 teams are able to break through the senior teams, but I think it’s indicative of the level of football that is being played at the association level which is a major concern for us, and one that will be getting a lot of our aggressive approach in the not too distant future.”
“We have a very intense competition calendar to roll out for 2020, but we also will be slipping straight into the yearend tournament and there will be some announcements shortly. We want to see the players in action as often as possible; the good thing is, Coach Maximo is here and he has been paying a lot of attention. I think close to 50% of the local training contingent of the Golden Jaguars is U20 players, so even tonight he has indentified four players from this game to start training on Tuesday (today). He needs to see more of that and in order for him to see it we need to have more football played,” Forde explained.
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