Four close in
Four are in.
Four more to go.
Akademiks, Top Bay Settlers, Strike Force and Red Tridents from Zone A are through to the quarter-finals of the lucrative LIME Pelican Football Challenge, following last night’s frenetic action at Kensington Oval.
By Sunday night next week the final four to compete for the $100,000 first-prize will be known.
Last night’s action was a do-or-die situation for Red Tridents who came up against Akademiks, whose position in the last eight was basically secured. Red Tridents had to avoid defeat and keep an eye on goal difference to advance and duly accomplished both with an important 1-1 draw. But it was not without some flutter of the nerves.
The first half of the game saw some fluid football from both sides, mostly concentrated in the mid-field and with both teams seemingly intent on not conceding an early goal. It was a strategy fraught with danger as one goal was likely to separate the two teams.
The cat-and-mouse game continued up to the 41st minute when a goalkeeping error led to the opening goal for Akademiks.
Red Tridents conceded a corner which, when it was delivered, the Tridents’ goalkeeper made a mess of his attempt to avert the danger. Defender Jermaine Caesar, who was the outstanding player on both sides, collected the loose ball and volleyed home to give Akademiks the lead. The score remained 1-0 going into half-time.
On the resumption there was obvious urgency from Red Tridents who were facing elimination and they strove energetically for the equaliser. Then lady luck smiled on them. Following the substitution of Damian Welch for Lionel Paul in the 15th minute of the second half, Mario Harte found himself in a great position at the far post when he received a brilliant pass and with a virtually empty goal at his mercy he headed wide. That would have put Akademiks 2-0 up and dealt Red Tridents a crushing blow.To their credit they continued on an attacking vein and this was exemplified when wide player Corey Barrow was substituted and another striker in the form of Wyatt Maynard introduced.
Red Tridents’ attacking play was finally rewarded in the 77th minute when Ramon Greaves raced down the right side and cut back the ball into the six-yard box to find an unmarked Riviere Williams who slotted in the easiest of goals and take advantage of Akademiks’ defensive blunder. Williams would have had to be playing in a different game to have missed that opportunity.
Red Tridents then tried to keep possession of the ball whenever Akademiks lost it, knowing that if the score-line remained as it was there would be through to the next round. The tactic worked and they left the field a happy bunch and with eight points. Akademiks finished with 9.
Earlier Strike Force hammered Bajan Elite 4-2 with arguably Barbados’ best under-21 footballer and one of the better strikers in the island, Diquan Adamson, netting in the 39th and 56th minutes. Carl Joseph scored a 69th minute goal and Dwayne Mars completed the rout with a 72nd minute effort. It marked a decided turnaround in the game as Bajan Elite had started the encounter in very bright and positive fashion, controlling large portions of the initial exchanges. Indeed, they got on the score-sheet first when lanky national defender Barry Skeete opened the game’s account with a 34th minute goal. Chai Hope got a 90th minute consolation goal but by that stage Bajan Elite had already been eliminated from the competition. Their frustration showed to such an extent that no fewer than six of their players were yellow carded. Strike Force topped the Zone A with 9 points.
In the second game of the night, last year’s champion side Bajan Pride went out of the competition with a slight whimper as they drew 1-1 with qualifiers Top Bay Settlers. Walton Burrowes opened the scoring for Bajan Pride in the 22nd minute and then the side reverted to the disappointing play that has marked their season. A win would have done wonders for their morale and sent tremors through the Settlers’ camp but Mustafa Haqq eased the anxieties in the 46th minute with a strike that ensured a share of the game and a total of 7 points, enough for his team to advance. Next Sunday Combined All Stars take on the already eliminated Galaxy; 360 Connection take on Red Snappers; and TS Strikers battle Fire House. (WG)