Both Super League weekend games ended deadlocked, and when the numbers were tallied, Texmar Boys and Benque D.C. United had both clinched spots in the championship finals best of three games series. With one week left in the playoffs, it is mathematically impossible for either Forever Strong Kraal Road or Estrellas F.C. to catch up with the two frontrunners.
At the MCC Garden on Friday night, Kraal Road needed a win to keep their championship hopes alive, and veteran superstar Normal “Tilliman” Pipersburg started the game on the coaching sidelines, nursing a badly bruised leg, and tried to guide his young charges until late in the game, when he decided to join the fray; and it was seconds away from a heroic salvage, when Toledo’s Ralph Flores dashed Kraal Road’s hopes in injury time with a spectacular goal to tie the ball game.
The night looked promising for Kraal Road at the 18th minute of the first half when striker Raymond “Killa” Gentle received a pass from left midfield Jason “Paxon” Young, turned and immediately unleashed a left foot rocket that sailed high into the far right pigeon hole for the 1-nil half time lead.
But 9 minutes into the second half, Estrellas’ Evon Lino tied it up at 1-1 when a series of well executed Estrellas’ passes, starting on the right side, ended up with Lino alone in front of Kraal Road’s Stanley “Jordan” Reneau at point blank range.
With the game on the line and time winding down, Tilliman decided to enter the game with about 15 minutes left on the clock, and shortly after he engineered a through pass to veteran Paul “Fabulous” Bradley who took it alone and outplaced Estrellas keeper Frank Lopez at the 75th minute. 2-1 ball game, and what a sensational victory it almost was.
But Kraal Road kept pressing for the insurance goal, and may have gotten careless in the closing minutes when, in the 2nd minute of injury time, Estrellas’ counter attack saw Kraal Road’s midfield wide open as Edon “Yellow Man” Rowley was slowly walking back, and a series of passes along the right side again culminated with a lob to the left goal line, a tap back to an advancing Ralph Flores around the penalty spot, and Flores let fly with a left foot volley that gave Jordan no chance; 2-2 ball game.
With the draw, Kraal Road could only hope for Texmar to blast Benque D.C. United in their Saturday night encounter; but no such thing would happen. The Super League marathon champions proved they were for real when they journeyed all the way down to Texmar’s Michael Aschroft Stadium in Independence to pull out a nil-nil draw from the regular season top seed and favorites for the championship.
In the Super League regular season, Texmar seemed to be a shoo-in for the championship, but the picture in the playoffs has taken a slightly different hue. Texmar is at the top of the playoff standings at the end of week 5, but Benque is just two points behind. And both their meetings in the playoffs have ended without a winner; 1-1 in Benque, and nil-nil in Independence. In the championship best of three series, each game must produce a winner, so it should be quite interesting.
The Super League has scheduled week 6 playoff games for this weekend, so the championship series should begin next week.