Bandits shock Police, 3-0, in Capital City
PLB Championship Finals Game 2 this Saturday at the Isidoro
After storming into the Premier League Closing Season Finals on the strength of two convincing semifinal victories over 4th seed BDF, 2-1 in Dangriga on May 3 and 3-0 in Belmopan on May 8, regular season #1 seed Police United were brimming with confidence going into Saturday night’s Finals Game 1 against defending champions Belmopan Bandits, seeded #2, at the Isidoro Beaton Stadium in Belmopan.
For their part, the beleaguered Bandits, having lost their #1 striker, Deon McCaulay, early in the season to the NASL’s Atlanta Silverbacks, were all of 8 points behind Police at the end of regular season, and only claimed the #2 seed position by virtue of goal difference over 3rd seed Verdes FC. The Bandits, who had only won 4 games, drawing 6 and losing 2, in regular season, had apparently made it through to the playoffs on the strength of their defense. The only other team to lose only 2 games in regular season and also allow only 7 goals was Police United, but they had posted 8 big victories, with a league leading 17 goals scored, to the Bandits’ 13.
The consensus was that, if the Bandits were to succeed in the playoffs, it would be on the strength of their team defense; and this assessment gained credence with their semifinal series against Verdes FC, where they eked out a 1-0 win at the Marshalleck Stadium on Saturday, May 3, and managed a controversial 1-1 draw at the Isidoro Beaton on Wednesday, May 7. And this was a Verdes team that was without the services of 3 suspended star players – Norman “Tilliman”Nunez, Orland Lyons and Gilroy “Bredda” Thurton.
Meanwhile, Police United was on a roll, following their 2-1 semifinal Game 1 win over BDF at the Carl Ramos Stadium on Saturday, May 3, with a decisive 3-0 thrashing of the army on Thursday night, May 8, with goals from Danny Jimenez (18’), Luis “Baca” Torres (46’) and Clifton West (64’).
Indeed, it seemed the Police “machine” was firing on all cylinders coming into the Finals against the Belmopan Bandits; and a low scoring affair seemed the best hope for the Bandits. With Police goalkeeper Keith Allen and sweeper Christopher Gilharry just having been announced for individual position awards by the Premier League, all indications pointed to a tough defensive encounter, with the outside possibility of the Police frontline firepower exploding for a few goals.
In the two regular season meetings between the two finalists, they had drawn 0-0 in the Bandits home game on March 19, and in the Police home game on April 16, it was Police 2-1 over the Bandits.
Nobody, certainly not the Police squad, and not even the jubilant Bandits staff, expected the astounding 3-0 margin of victory over Police on Saturday night, May 10, in the Premier League of Belize Closing Season 2013-2014 Finals Game 1 at the Isidoro Beaton Stadium. But that is exactly what happened; after a scoreless first half, 3 second half Bandits goals, from Jerome “Jarro” James (53’ & 60’) and Denmark Casey, Jr. (67’).
For betting people, the series is over, and only the champagne is left to be poured out on the heads of the Belmopan Bandits this coming Saturday night. A 3-0 margin seems insurmountable. But the Police are not about giving up. In their post-game team huddle they are committed to show in Game 2 what they know they are capable of. They may have fallen to their own overconfidence in Game 1. The question is whether the same mis-step will befall Bandits in the finale.
The 3-0 score on Saturday did not accurately reflect the competitiveness of the match, in which Police enjoyed more possession than Bandits, and came close to scoring on a number of occasions. But the name of the game is goals, and the Bandits managed to execute first, and then “got lucky,” as a persistent but frustrated Police attack gave way to momentary lapses in their defense, and the Bandits pounced on each opportunity as if it was according to their game plan.
Game 2 for the championship and a CONCACAF Champions League berth:
Saturday, May 17
7:30 p.m. – Police United FC vs Belmopan Bandits FC – Isidoro Beaton Stadium
(Ed. Note: A more detailed game report in our weekend issue.)