Sports — 07 May 2013
Strikers quiet, home teams win in Week 1 of Premier League semifinals;

Police 3:1 BDF, FC Belize 1:0 Bmp Bandits

The turnout was not the best for the opening games of the Premier League semifinal playoffs; which is a bit strange, but not completely surprising, in what has traditionally been the time when fans flock to the stadiums to witness the best of the semipro league in quest of a shot at the national championship of Belize. It was an Agric Show weekend; there was little in the way of real football advertisement promotion; football fans were recently deflated by the cancellation of the much anticipated first national team Friendly since qualifying for the Gold Cup; and the recent controversial elimination of perhaps the hottest team down the stretch, Placencia Assassins, may not have helped to spark the frenzied fan attraction that usually accompanies the start of the Premier League semifinals. Whatever the cause, it will be either redemption time or the “showers” this coming weekend for the top seeded teams who both lost round 1 of their semifinals. Defending champion Belmopan Bandits and 3-time former champion Belize Defence Force (BDF) will both be at home with their backs against the wall, having lost their “away” game this past weekend.

On Saturday night at the FFB Stadium, it was #3 seed Police United pulling out an injury time 3-1 victory over #2 seed BDF, who suffered a serious setback when their national team goalkeeper Frank Lopez was ejected at the 27th minute for his remarks to referee Christopher Reid. Police midfielder Amin “Tacos” August had given his team an early lead at the 4th minute, but defender Tyrone Pandy equalized for BDF at the 11th minute. It was 1-1 at the end of regulation, but both Tacos (90+’) and midfielder Trevor “Burger” Lennen (90+’) struck in injury time to give Police the 3-1 win.

The strikers were also silent at the MCC Grounds yesterday, where #4 seed FC Belize got an early goal from midfielder Avian “Chiches” Crawford at the 2nd minute, and it held up all the way for the 1-nil victory over visiting #1 seed Belmopan Bandits. A mis-played air ball from the left side bounced over the heads of confused Bandits defenders, and the advancing Chiches met it coming down in the central area inside the eighteen, using his right foot to carefully guide his volley just hard enough into the far left corner to get past a diving Woodrow West in goal for the Bandits; 1-nil ball game. The game was not pretty, with a lot of physical contact, and players frequently limping or being carried to the sidelines. The most serious loss for the Bandits was when national team striker Deon McCaulay was taken down and out of the game following a hard tackle by FC Belize’s midfielder Mark “Kelo” Leslie at the 10th minute of first half. Things looked hopeful for the Bandits when FC Belize striker John King was ejected at the 34th minute, but the FC Belize defense “dodged a few bullets,” with heroic saves by goalkeeper Glenford Chimilio and defender Jorge Estrada. Unable to find the equalizer, a frustrated Bandits squad themselves suffered two late ejections, as referee Irfan Basdemir dealt sternly with midfielders David Trapp (at the 88th minute) and Gilbert Swaso (at 90+ min), putting them both out of action for game 2 of the semifinals.

Defending champions Belmopan Bandits are CONCACAF bound, having decisively won the aggregate 2012-2013 PLB Opening and Closing regular seasons; but where this PLB Closing season semifinal is concerned their “home” work is cut out for them this Saturday night, where a draw will not be good enough against FC Belize, who reached the playoff on the strength of their defense. Over the past two regular seasons, these two teams have twice had scoreless (0-0) draws, and they have split the other two encounters by identical 1-nil margins. FC Belize did not make the Opening Season playoffs due to goal difference. Now in the Closing Season semifinals, they are 1-0 ahead of the Bandits going into the critical game 2. This one will be “not’n nice.”

On the other hand, while finishing at the top of their group in the last two previous regular seasons, Police United must count themselves lucky to have made it to these semifinals. A ruling in favor of Placencia Assassins, who had beaten Police, 3-0, on the field, and ended their season with victories over both the Bandits (2-1) and FC Belize (3-0), could have put Placencia in the playoffs instead of Police. Now, Police enjoy a commanding 3-1 edge over BDF going into game 2 of the semifinals at the Norman Broaster Stadium; but they certainly know better than to take anything for granted against the proud BDF soldiers. It’s gonna be a war at the Norman Broaster.

Semifinals game 2 schedule:
Saturday, May 11
7:30 p.m. – Belmopan Bandits FC vs FC Belize – Isidoro Beaton Stadium
Sunday, May 12
3:30 p.m. – Belize Defence Force FC vs Police United FC – Norman Broaster Stadium

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