Placencia Assassins 0:0 Belmopan Bandits Belize Defence Force 0:0 Police United
Both weekend Premier League of Belize (PLB) semifinals Game 2 ended scoreless (0-0), so the previous week’s winners, Belmopan Bandits and Police United, emerged aggregate winners of their series, and thus have each earned a spot in the championship Final, to begin this coming Sunday.
On Saturday night, it was Placencia Assassins coming into the capital city to try and overturn a 1-0 defeat they had suffered at the Michael Ashcroft Stadium the previous week at the hands of the Belmopan Bandits. The Assassins brought out their veteran big game star Stephen Lopez in goal, and he succeeded in keeping the Bandits scoreless; but they were likewise unable to shake the net of their opponents, ably guarded by no less than Woodrow West, the final gatekeeper of a very stingy Bandits defense.
It was an intense contest, in which Placencia coach David “Rat” Torres used his 3 substitutions in quick succession early in the 2nd half, trying to get a goal. The heavy dew added to a patchy clay surface to make the ball and the turf slippery at times, causing some difficulty for strikers at both ends. But no goals favored the Bandits, whose 1-nil win in Independence stood up to give them the series victory.
Placencia Assassins: #31 Stephen Lopez (goalkeeper), #15 Arnie White, #13 Dalton Eiley (captain), #2 Jason Kelly, #24 Bernard Linares, #23 Dellon Torres, #11 Luis Torres, #3 Garry Young (#4 Zerrick Torres 69’), #17 Kareem Haylock (#27 Collin Westby 68’), #10 Rollin Burgess (#22 Byron Ferrel 56’), #9 Ashley Torres. Coach – David Torres.
Belmopan Bandits – #1 Woodrow West (goalkeeper), #11 Floyd Jones, #2 Albert Thurton, #7 Ian Gaynair, #19 Jacinto Bermudez, #9 David Trapp, #12 Denmark Casey, Jr., #21 Lincoln Wiltshire (#8 Gilbert Swaso at half-time), #15 Jeremy James, #10 Dennis Serano, #14 David Madrid (#5 Shane Armstrong 56’). Coach – Edmund Pandy.
Officials: Referee – Gerald Henry, Jr.; Assistants – Virgilio Sarceno and Abner Alvarez; 4th Official – Amir Castillas; Match Commissioner – Marlon Tillett; Referee Assessor – Eugene Contreras.
It was a similar story on Sunday afternoon, where Belize Defence Force (BDF) came into the Isidoro Beaton with a sense of urgency, trying to overcome a 2-1 deficit they had suffered under Police United the previous Sunday at the Norman Broaster Stadium in San Ignacio. And again it was the home team, this time Police, going to their bench first to thwart a relentless BDF attack, after Police striker Danny Jimenez suffered an injury causing their own attack to slump for a while.
Police coach Andres Makin made his first change at the 41st minute, replacing “Burger” Lennen with another veteran, “Leechi” Jimenez; and BDF coach Palmiro Salas perhaps hastily reacted, inserting Harrison Tasher 3 minutes later for “Cheety” Jimenez. The half ended scoreless 2 minutes later.
Without Erwin “Bird” Flores on his bench (Bird was red carded last week), coach Salas lacked an important option, and was impatient for a goal. In desperation, he then replaced two other effective performers early in 2nd half – striker Marlon “El Matador” Meza by young Tarrel Flores at 15 minutes of 2nd half, and superb midfielder Justo Lewis by veteran Ryan Simpson 8 minutes later. Coach Makin responded promptly and effectively with his last two substitutions – Oliver Wiltshire for Jeremy Bermudez in midfield, and Lennox “Criminal” Castillo for Devon Makin.
It was a physical game, with “Danny” Jimenez twice, and Ryan Simpson and Kishane “Grill” Pech each having to leave the game once briefly due to injuries. A scramble in front of the Police goal late in 2nd half looked like a sure score, but miraculously the ball failed to cross the line before it was cleared by defender Glenn “Tipu” Martinez. Veteran Police goalie Charlie Slusher had to punch out a number of air balls in heavy traffic. But the best opportunity of the day seemed to come for Police when Lennox “Criminal” Castillo got away on the right wing late in 2nd half, only to see BDF goalie Frank Lopez come out in time to block before he could pull the trigger.
Coach Salas was begging referee Nelson Jones for extra time to compensate for the many injury delays, and he got a reasonable 4 minutes added to regulation. But it was not BDF’s day, as the long whistle, signaling the 0-0 final, released a battalion of jubilant Police Cadets in uniform unto the field in celebration of the Police triumph in the series. They were soon joined by the exuberant Police flag man, Aaron “Gambis” Gamboa, who had been “lying low” on the eastern sideline throughout the tense ball game.
Belize Defence Force – Frank Lopez (goalkeeper), #2 Victor Nunez, #3 Vallan Symms, #12 Tyrone Pandy (captain), #11 Khalil Velasquez, #8 Richard Jimenez (#26 Harrison Tasher 44’), #5 Justo Lewis (#20 Ryan Simpson 68’), #9 Lisbey Castillo, #19 Byron Usher, #10 Marlon Meza (#13 Tarrel Flores 60’), #17 Ralph Flores. Coach – Palmiro Salas.
Police United – #1 Carlos Slusher (goalkeeper), #19 Glen Martinez, #24 Kishane Pech, #14 Jermain Jones, #12 Trevor Lennen (#23 Orlando Jimenez, captain, 41’), #11 Jeremy Bermudez (#21 Oliver Wiltshire 74’), #5 Shannon Flowers, #3 Andres Makin, Jr., #7 Devon Makin (#9 Lennox Castillo 78’), #20 Daniel Jimenez, #6 Evan Mariano. Coach – Andres Makin.
Officials: Referee – Nelson Jones; Assistants – Martin Requena and Daniel Herrera; 4th Official – Victor Williams; Match Commissioner – Shadene Ottley; Referee Assessor – Mauro Manzanero.
The stage is now set for the Big Dance:
Sunday, December 23
3:30 p.m. – Police United FC vs Belmopan Bandits – Isidoro Beaton Stadium
Saturday, December 29
7:30 p.m. – Belmopan Bandits vs Police United FC – Isidoro Beaton Stadium