Short staffed Griga Pumas gain a draw against Ladyville Jaguars in first leg of national women football semifinals
Despite the rains in Belize City on Sunday, the field was in good shape in Ladyville, where visiting Dangriga Pumas were hosted by Ladyville Jaguars in the first leg of the home-and-away semifinals of the FFB’s Atlantic Bank Women Football Tournament 2013.
The Dangriga team fielded exactly 11 players – no substitutes on the bench; while the home team, Ladyville Jaguars, had ample replacements on hand, and a host of excited fans lining the northern portion of the field. Reinforced with about 5 former Millennium stars, the Ladyville Jaguars team appeared confident and dominated play in the early going. Shanell Gentle is normally a striker, and Sarah Arzu, their other best player, usually controls the defense; but yesterday they switched roles in first half – Sarah striking and Shanell sweeping in defense. Sarah struck early for the Jaguars, who were up 1-nil at the 16th minute, and seemed to be having things their way. But 10 minutes later, a corner from the right side, kicking into the northern goal, resulted in a scramble in front of the Jaguars goal, and tall forward Jacklaine Arzu tapped in the equalizer for Griga.
Undaunted, the Jaguars resumed their persistent attack, and a couple minutes later were rewarded with a penalty from a handball inside the eighteen following a well placed corner by Kara Kisling. But a confident Shanell Gentle was surprised by the quick reaction of Griga goalie Shereen Vasquez, who reached high to her right to push off the penalty kick by Shanell.
11 minutes later it again seemed that Ladyville Jaguars had gotten the go-ahead goal, but once more they were disappointed, as Kara’s shot from close range was called offside.
The half ended 1-1, but Griga’s outstanding #10 striker Quniah Caliz appeared to be injured and remained on the sidelines for a few minutes to start the second half, with no replacements due to “man shortage” on the bench. At that point things looked really bleak for Griga, but she eventually returned to action.
The second half began with Shanell Gentle up front striking for the Jaguars, and Sarah Arzu replacing her in the sweeping position in defense. Shanell pressed hard for a score, no doubt trying to redeem her miss from the penalty spot, but it was right midfielder Claudia Martinez who made good on a right-away left-foot shot from the edge of the eighteen that went into the upper right corner for the 2nd Jaguars goal at the 58th minute.
It seemed everything was going the Jaguars’ way, but the insurance third goal was hard to come by, as they missed a number of opportunities. Impatience, and a bit of overconfidence, may have gotten the better of the Jaguars, as Sarah was repeatedly foraging up into the forward along with Shanell. On one such effort at the 43rd minute, the Griga defence recovered and launched a long ball counter-attack on the right side where Quniah was in a foot race with the rest of the Jaguars defense. With Sarah still racing back from the Pumas half of the field, Quniah penetrated into the Jaguars eighteen and let loose a right-foot shot into the left corner; and “just like that,” the score was tied, 2-2, with only 2 minutes remaining in regulation. 1 minute extra was added for injury time, and then it was the long whistle from referee Amir Castillas. Griga had conquered tremendous odds, despite being short-staffed, and had come away from game 1 on the road with a 2-2 draw.
Game 2 is next Sunday at the Carl Ramos Stadium in Dangriga, where the Pumas will likely have more “bench strength,” and it will be the Ladyville Jaguars’ turn to try and disappoint the home fans.
(Ed. Note: There is no word yet on the result of the other semifinal, Triple B of Belmopan vs Gentle Touch of Cayo at the FFB field yesterday.)