The two Zones, North and South, collided over the weekend in Game 1 of the semifinals in the Premier League of Belize (PLB) Opening Season 2012-2013 tournament. North Zone #1 seed Belmopan Bandits clashed with #2 seed from the South Zone, defending champions Placencia Assassins; and the South Zone #1 seed Police United FC collided with the #2 seed from the North Zone, Belize Defence Force (BDF).
There were 12 teams in this PLB tournament, 6 in each group or zone. With a double round-robin in each zone, that gave 10 games per team. In addition, there were 4 “out-of-zone” meetings, where each team from the North played 4 additional games, 1 each against different teams from the South; and vice versa. Therefore, not all the teams had a chance of meeting; and this has been a concern for fans from certain teams, who saw their schedule as being harder than that for other teams, because of the teams selected for them to meet in the “out-of-zone” meetings. As tight as the race was for 2 playoff spots per Zone, some teams felt they were dealt an unfair “hand.”
Bygones are bygones, but one notable result of that scenario is that in these semifinals, the meeting between Belmopan Bandits and Placencia Assassins was the first meeting between them for this season; they did not clash in “out-of-zone” games. But Police United FC and Belize Defence Force did meet before in “out-of-zone,” and in that meeting on Sunday, October 28, at the Norman Broaster Stadium, it was BDF, 3-1, over Police.
The semifinals are home-and-away series; and the #1 seed has the choice of whether their “home” game will be Game 1 or Game 2. In these semifinals, both #1 seeds chose to play Game 1 “on the road,” so they will both end their series at home with Game 2 this weekend.
The first Game 1 semifinal was on Saturday night at the Michael Ashcroft Stadium in Independence, where the defending champions were unable to score against visiting Belmopan Bandits, whose goalkeeper, Woodrow West, is generally considered the best goalkeeper in the league right now. No doubt, the Bandits whole team defense shares in the credit, but West played the major role in his team’s allowing by far the least goals this season, 4 goals only in 14 regular season games. West may have proven a decisive factor in Saturday’s game, as reports are that he made many fine saves to keep the Assassins scoreless. And for the second week in a row, the Bandits got a big goal from their season long silent striker, Jeremy “Jarro” James, who put them in front to stay at the 22nd minute for the 1-nil Bandits’ victory. Jarro also scored his team’s only goal last week in their 1-1 draw against BDF in the last game of the regular season. But before that, Jarro had only scored 1 goal all season long. Can Jarro do it again for a third consecutive week, or will someone else step up to the plate for the Bandits?
In the other Game 1 semifinal, the visitors again prevailed, as Police United FC went into San Ignacio’s Norman Broaster Stadium and returned with a 2-1 victory over home-standing Belize Defence Force (BDF). BDF took the lead early on an 11th minute goal from Vallan Symms, but Evan Mariano equalized for Police before the half at the 33rd minute. The game winner for Police came in injury time from Trevor “Burger” Lennan (90+’). Though second to teammate Danny Jimenez (12 goals) on the goal scoring list this season, Evan Mariano (9 goals) has proven the most consistent scorer for Police and in the league, shaking the net in 9 of 14 regular season games, and has scored again in Game 1 of the semifinal. Another notable factor in this game is that BDF’s highly skilled defender/attacker Harrison Tasher was sitting out a suspension. He should be back for Game 2.
It all comes down to Game 2 this weekend for a chance at the Big Dance. The margins of victory in Game 1 were both close (1 goal only), so fans can expect high attacking intensity in Game 2, after which the aggregate score will decide the series winner, or overtime if necessary.
After the dust clears on Sunday afternoon, the stage will be set for the championship Final, another home-and-away series. Who will be in the Final?
Semifinal Game 2 schedule:
Saturday, December 15
7:30 p.m. – Belmopan Bandits vs Placencia Assassins – Isidoro Beaton Stadium
Sunday, December 16
3:00 p.m. – Police United FC vs Belize Defence Force – Isidoro Beaton Stadium