Sports — 24 March 2016
Verdes can still make PLB playoffs; Police United can clinch Champions League berth

BELIZE CITY, Mon. Mar. 22, 2016–The Premier League of Belize (PLB) Closing Season 2016 is fast winding down its regular season, and the playoff picture is still uncertain after Week 9 games this past weekend. Three teams are sure of a playoff spot – BDF, Bandits and Police; but presently fourth ranked Placencia Assassins is facing a challenge from Verdes FC, who still have a chance to wrest the last playoff spot from the Assassins. (See standings below.)

At the MCC Grounds in Belize City yesterday, home standing BDF FC seized first place in the standings with their 3-0 win over a short-staffed Wagiya FC, some of whose players were reportedly otherwise occupied at the ATLIB (Association of Tertiary Level Institutions of Belize) football championships. Wagiya could only field 10 men, but BDF couldn’t find their focus until the field was equalized with the red-card ejection of their right midfielder Paul Nunez at the 27th minute. The army promptly responded with a flurry of goals, from Mark Arzu (32’), Ricky Ricketts (38’) and Osmar Duran (41’), for a 3-0 lead, which they never relinquished. Second half was nevertheless competitive, with the highlight for Wagiya being two spectacular long range missiles from left defender Aaron Lopez, one sailing inches over the crossbar, the other just into the side of the net that gave BDF goalkeeper Tevin Gamboa some anxious moments. The tall and wiry Lopez displayed a lethal left foot reminiscent of the legendary Dean Lewis from the 1970’s Stann Creek Selection.

Meanwhile, at the Norman Broaster Stadium in San Ignacio, the home squad Verdes FC kept their slim playoff hopes alive with a 2-1 win over the Belmopan Bandits. A few days earlier on Tuesday, the Bandits had inaugurated their spanking new Isidoro Beaton Stadium, artificial turf and all, with a 3-0 loss to Woodrow West and his Honduran champions, Progresso FC. The Bandits are already in the PLB playoffs, but they have an old rivalry with Verdes, who desperately needed the win to keep their playoff hopes alive. Captain Elroy Smith (41’) gave the Bandits a 1-nil first half lead, but Verdes rebounded in second half with goals from Jamil Cano (62’) and Christobal Gilharry (85’) to grab the 2-1 victory.

Week 10 games, all scheduled for this Holy Thursday night, will be very interesting, indeed.

Thursday, March 24, Wk 10
7:30 p.m. – Belmopan Bandits FC vs Placencia Assassins FC – Isidoro Beaton Stadium
7:30 p.m. – Police United FC vs BDF FC – Norman Broaster Stadium
7:30 p.m. – Wagiya FC vs Verdes FC – Michael Ashcroft Stadium

There are also 3 back matches remaining – (Wk 6) BDF vs Verdes, (Wk 7) Wagiya vs Police United, and (Wk 9) Placencia Assassins vs Police United – and the scramble to reach the Closing Season playoffs is not the only race being monitored closely. According to the PLB competition rules, if there is a different champion between the Opening and Closing Seasons, the one that had the most combined points total between the Opening and Closing regular seasons, will get to represent Belize in the CONCACAF Champions League 2016-2017.

With 2 back matches remaining, Police United is in the “driver’s seat.” If Police United ends this season with the most combined total points between the Opening and Closing regular seasons, they automatically secure a berth in Champions League, even if they don’t emerge as Closing Season champions. So, in the days ahead, all eyes are also focused on the “Current Points Combined” standings below:

Back matches schedule:
Thursday, March 31
7:30 p.m. – Wagiya FC vs Police United FC – Michael Ashcroft Stadium

Saturday, April 2
7:30 p.m. – Placencia Assassins vs Police United FC – Michael Ashcroft Stadium

Sunday, April 3
3:30 p.m. – BDF FC vs Verdes FC – MCC Grounds

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