At the end of week 2 of the BPFL’s RFG Insurance Cup playoffs yesterday, two teams remained undefeated to lead the playoffs, as the Belize Defence Force (BDF) were held to a 1-1 draw by defending champions F.C. Belize. And one team is down in the cellar with a second defeat in as many playoff outings, as Dangriga’s Wagiya fell 1-nil to the visiting Hankook Verdes from San Ignacio, courtesy of an 87th minute goal from Daniel “Danny” Jimenez. (See playoff standings.)
The MCC yesterday had a decent turnout of fans, and, though both teams are known for their tough defence, it was still an entertaining match. BDF, at home today, started their reknowned all-arounder Erwin “Bird” Flores at right defence, claiming an injury to one of their regular starters; and, on the other end, F.C. Belize, with Albert “Allie” Thurton and Vallan Symms anchoring the central defence, still started their alternate stopper Shannon Flowers in central midfield beside Mark “Kelo” Leslie. So today, both coaches, “Willie Bo” Bernard of F.C. Belize and Marvin Ottley of BDF, were fielding their strongest defensive teams to start the match.
Predictably, it was a scoreless first half, but not without its anxious moments, the highlight of which was a spectacular save by BDF’s goalie Charlie Slusher about mid-way through the half. Shooting into the northern goal, F.C.’s Tyrone “T-Bone” Muschamp sent a long corner from the right side over-passing the crowded goal area to the left corner of the goal box, where Jeromy “Jarro” James leaped high and sent the header high to the right side, just under the cross bar, with Charlie elevating and extending his right arm to tip the ball over the bar at the last moment.
About fifteen minutes into the second half, it was F.C.’s goalie Elroy “Zabble” Rowley’s turn to make a sensational save. Again, it was a free kick from the right side, this time by BDF, but it dropped short near the top of the eighteen on the same right side, where Deon McCaulay met it with a right foot volley that had Zabble diving and stretching just enough to deflect the ball which ricocheted off the crossbar before being cleared by his defence.
The BDF goal came a few minutes later, when their right midfielder Evan Mariano got away on the right wing and attacked the goal, but his shot turned out to be more like a draining pass across goal, catching both the goalie and the defence off guard, and giving the alert on-coming Marcos “Magoo” Souto an opportunity to slam in the first goal of the match.
The game remained a tight contest, with BDF unable to get the insurance goal, and F.C. Belize searching for the equalizer, until the final minute of injury time. Penalty was the referee’s call, to the jubilation of F.C. fans, as a lobbed pass to the left of BDF’s goal area found Jarro sandwiched by two BDF defenders, the ball coming down to get tangled between them and deflected by a defender’s arm.
The veteran Vallan Symms, who has scored most but has also missed a few, stepped up for the penalty. His shot was placed, fairly hard, almost to the center of goal, as Charlie made his move to his right side of goal. Charlie tried to reach back, and got a leg on the ball, but it still caromed into the net. Afterward, Vallan said he deliberately kicked to the center, having great respect for Charlie’s ability to pick the right corner, and to get there. For his part, Charlie threw himself down and punched the ground after the equalizing goal, in obvious frustration and disappointment at coming so close to getting the shutout and a valuable playoff victory.
The ball was spotted at the center spot to resume hostilities, but before it could be kicked off, the long whistle; 1-1 ball game. And the two teams remain undefeated 4-point leaders in week 2 of the BPFL playoffs.
Reports are that the game at the Carl Ramos in Dangriga was even more disappointing to home standing Wagiya, who maintained a scoreless draw with visiting Hankook Verdes until the waning minutes of the ball game. But at the 87th minute, it was Verdes’ main striker, young Daniel “Danny” Jimenez continuing his regular season heroics with the game winning goal for his team.
Week 3 of the BPFL playoffs see both City teams hitting the highway, F.C. Belize traveling west to the Norman Broaster, and Belize Defence Force heading south to the Carl Ramos Stadium.