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Bandits rule!

Belmopan Bandits SC beat BDF FC twice in three days, 3-1 and 5-3, for aggregate 8-4 victory and PLB 2017-2018 Closing Season championship

BELIZE CITY, Wed. May 23, 2018– It all happened so quickly, but the Premier League of Belize (PLB) was under pressure to produce a champion in time for the CONCACAF League Tournament draw today, Wednesday, May 23.  So, after the re-play of the 2017-2018 PLB Closing Season semifinal game 2 last Wednesday, May 16, ended 0-0 between Verdes FC and BDF FC at the Norman Broaster Stadium, thus qualifying BDF to the Finals on a 2-0 aggregate win, there needed to be an accelerated schedule for the home-and-away Finals series. Following negotiations among the PLB and the two teams, the dates were set at Saturday evening, May 19, at the MCC Grounds in Belize City for game 1; and Monday night, May 21, a holiday, at the Isidoro Beaton Stadium in Belmopan for game 2.

Finals Game 1 at the MCC

Coming off a hard fought draw on Wednesday night against a tough Verdes FC, the BDF squad appeared less than sharp for their Saturday evening clash with the more experienced and rested Bandits, who pounced on a number of defensive miscues to secure a comfortable 3-goal lead before BDF got a goal in injury time from their spectacular young striker, Trimayne Harris.  The Bandits got on the scorecard at the 10th minute when a corner bounced in front of the BDF goal and was chipped in by an alert Tyrone Pandy, who had moved up from the Bandits defence for the corner. A careless series of short passes among defenders at the top of the BDF eighteen ended in the ball stolen by Bandits’ Honduran striker Rony Sanchez, who drilled a low shot past BDF goalie Glenford Chimilio to make it 2-nil for the visitors at the 42nd minute. It was another defensive lapse early in second half, as the Bandits other Honduran striker, Georgie Welcome battled his way free on the right side and sent a cross goal pass that found teammate Jerome “Jarro” James all alone in front of goal for the easy tap in to make it 3-nil at the 74th minute.  Except for those miscues, the BDF team played well, moving the ball with cohesion in midfield, but unable to create good scoring opportunities. All seemed lost for the army when frustrated star midfielder, Raymond Ramos was red-carded after a dangerous tackle against the Bandits’ Rilwaan Salawu; but in the second minute of injury time, Trimayne burst free on the left sideline and drove all the way to inside the eighteen, before unleashing a left foot grounder past Shane Orio in goal for the Bandits, to cut the lead to a less insurmountable 3-1 final score.

Finals Game 2 at Isidoro Beaton

3-nil was virtually impossible; but 3-1 was still a hugely daunting hurdle for the young BDF team to consider going up against the seasoned and battle tested former champions. The not so many fans that showed up for game 2 on Monday night at the Isidoro Beaton Stadium were there mostly to celebrate the Bandits championship, but still hoping for an entertaining game. A victory of any sort would certainly salve the wounds of the BDF die-hards; but a 3-goal margin of victory against the Bandits, which was needed for an aggregate BDF win, was realistically out of the question.

BDF FC did not disappoint; and neither did the Bandits. They both came to play; and fans were treated to an exciting and action packed thriller indeed, as BDF early on gave indication that they really wanted a win, and who knows what could follow if they got an early goal. But their early threats came to naught, and any thought of a spectacular upset was soon put to rest with the commencement of what we can best describe as “the Georgie Welcome Show.”

The Honduran striker had previously mostly served as a playmaker for the Bandits attack, finding openings in the defense to create goal scoring opportunities for fellow striker Rony Sanchez or attacking midfielder Jarro James. But on Monday night, Georgie unleashed his full arsenal of attacking skills. He started with a right foot blast from outside the eighteen that saw BDF goalie Glenford Chimilio defending himself and just managing to deflect the shot onto the right goal post; the rebound to be easily tapped in by a trailing Rony Sanchez for the Bandits 1-nil lead at the 22nd minute.

BDF would not be demoralized so easily; and a couple minutes later, a streaking Trimayne Harris on the left wing was cut down just at the edge of the Bandits’ eighteen by defender Ian “Yellow” Gaynair; and referee Irfan Basdemir pointed to the penalty spot. Trimayne relished the opportunity, and drilled it low in the left corner past a diving Shane Orio; 1-1 at the 25thh minute.

Then Georgie took the game over. The fans gasped at the 28th minute, as his blast from thirty yards out was barely pushed over the cross bar by a diving Glenford Chimilio. And when midfielder Khalil Velasquez served the corner from the left side, the six foot three Welcome rose above his defensive marker and powered an unstoppable header past a helpless Chimilio for the 2-1 lead at the 29th minute. He was just getting started. A minute later, Georgie gave a good feed to teammate Rony Sanchez, but Rony’s shot was corralled by Chimilio. A few minutes later, an attempted defensive clearance by BDF left defender instead went high in the air just outside the right side of the eighteen; racing against defenders to the ball, Georgie got their first, and before the ball touched ground, let loose a right foot blast (reminiscent of Maurice Jones against Nick Dujon) that ricocheted under the cross bar and bounced into the net behind a bewildered Glen Chimilio, to end the half 3-1 in favor of the Bandits, and the championship all but wrapped up.

Early in second half, Georgie again split the BDF defense to serve Rony an easy finish, but it was called offside. But more pressure from Georgie in attack caused a hand-ball in their eighteen by BDF; and Georgie drilled a hard grounder to the right corner to complete his hat trick at the 54th minute.

But our BDF fighters don’t give up; and, with much attention from the Bandits defense, Trimayne drained a ground pass to the right side of the eighteen for teammate Tarell Flores to send one past Shane from close range to close the gap to 4-2 at the 62nd minute.

Fans were enjoying the spectacle, as both teams played attacking football. And the BDF fan club found new life when midfielder Latrell Middleton was pushed down hard by Bandits left defender Tyrone Pandy just inside the eighteen; and again, Trimayne stepped to the penalty spot, this time against Bandits’ sub-keeper Lincoln Lopez, and once more lit up his fans with his second goal of the night at the 73rd minute, to bring the score to 4-3 in favor of the Bandits.

But the soon to be crowned champions were determined to end it on a positive note, and it was their Honduran midfielder Darwin Bermudez who used his laser-precise left foot to launch a twenty-five yard free kick from the right side, curving it low around the defensive wall and into the left corner, to make it 5-3, Bandits at the 88th minute.

Many had thought the championship was a foregone conclusion after the Bandits’ 3-1 victory in game 1; but those who witnessed the game 2 finale at the Isidoro Beaton still got their money’s worth of football entertainment. And there were no regrets, as the young BDF squad proved that they wouldn’t be taken lightly, even if most fans conceded that Verdes FC would have been a more difficult opponent for Bandits in the finals.

Awards ceremony

In the post-game awards ceremony, FFB President Sergio Chuc congratulated the PLB teams, executive and tournament organizers, promising to continue partnering with the PLB as the “face of football for the FFB.”

The champions, Belmopan Bandits SC, and sub-champions, Belize Defence Force FC received their champion and sub-champion team trophies, respectively, along with individual medals for players. The champs also received a $10,000.00 check; and the sub-champs, a $5,000.00 check.

Individual awards for the PLB 2017-2018 Closing Season were then distributed as follows:

Golden Glove – Selvin Sagastume (Verdes FC); Best Defender – Dalton Eiley (Belmopan Bandits SC); Best Midfielder – Denmark Casey (Verdes FC); Best Young Player – Jonard Castillo (Wagiya FC); Best Goal Scorer – Jonard Castillo (Wagiya FC); Fair Play – Belmopan Bandits SC; Best Coach – Kent Gabourel (Belmopan Bandits SC); Best Manager – Captain Kenrick Martinez (BDF FC); Broadcasting Award – TNC; Regular Season MVP – Trimayne Harris (BDF FC); Playoff MVP – Georgie Welcome (Belmopan Bandits SC).

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