BELIZE CITY, Mon. Dec. 4, 2017– The Premier League of Belize (PLB) 2017-2018 Opening Season is down to one final game, after game 1 of the Finals yesterday, featuring the top two teams in regular season, #1 seed defending champion Belmopan Bandits SC and #2 seed Verdes FC, both having demolished their opponents in the semifinals.
The highly anticipated clash of the titans yesterday at the Norman Broaster Stadium in San Ignacio ended 1-nil in favor of the home team, Verdes FC, over visiting defending champions Belmopan Bandits SC. Verdes wasted an early opportunity from the penalty spot, where their leading striker, Brazilian Alcides “Paco” Thomas slipped on the wet ground while kicking, and sent the ball high over the cross bar at the 16th minute. Despite some exciting midfield play from Denmark Casey and Brazilian Rodolfo Silva de Lima, and penetrating runs from ball wizard Gilroy “Bredda” Thurton, the Verdes attack was effectively contained by the Bandits’ defensive back line, allowing only long shots which were effectively handled by the veteran Orio. The lone goal came late in second half, at the 84th minute, from Rodolfo Silva’s long right foot drive from thirty yards out on the left side, that caught Shane away from his goal line, and saw him diving high and backwards to his left, as the ball sailed over his outstretched fingertips and into the right “pigeon hole.” It was a spectacular shot, and proved to be the difference in the ball game.
The game started well for the Bandits, and they got an early thrill, when midfielder Darwin Bermudez’ long free kick found their top striker Georgie Welcome slapping the volley past Zeron Sagastume in goal for Verdes at the 12th minute; but it was immediately called back for offside. The road soon got rocky for the Bandits, however, as Welcome had to leave the game at the 25th minute after aggravating a strained knee. His replacement, sensational rookie Rene Leslie created some anxious moments for the Verdes’ defence, who survived a couple close calls in the waning moments, to come away with the 1-nil victory.
Overall, Verdes had the better opportunities in the ball game, and would certainly have liked at least a 2 goal cushion, which the penalty conversion would have provided, going into the decisive game two on the Bandits home turf. On the plus side, they suffered no major injuries or ejections in the game; so they will be looking forward to make better use of their chances to seal things for the championship on Saturday night.
For their part, the Bandits have to feel good, coming away with only a 1 goal deficit, having played without two important starters, captain Elroy Smith and midfielder Khalil Velasquez, both serving red-card suspensions. They will be back for game 2. However, a lot hinges on the condition of striker Georgie Welcome.
Verdes FC – #1 goalkeeper Zeron Sagastume; #16 Evral Trapp; #18 Victor Cruz Mejia; #4 Brandon Jones; #2 San Leobardo Mendez; #5 Elroy “Bibbs” Kuylen; #15 Rodolfo Silva de Lima; #7 Denmark Casey; #10 Jarret Davis (#23 Anderson Cordoba); #9 Gilroy “Bredda” Thurton; #25 Alcides “Paco” Thomas (#8 Ricardo “Cheety’ Jimenez 74’). Coach – Marvin Ottley.
Belmopan Bandits SC – #1 goalkeeper Shane Moody Orio; #7 Ian “Yellow” Gaynair; #13 Dalton Eiley, #23 Tyrone Pandy; #21 Humberto Requena; #15 Jerome “Jarro” James; #12 Darwin Bermudez; #16 Amilton Filho (#5 Armando Gaitan 89’); #27 Kervin Johnson; #25 Carlos “Kique” Gonzalez (#3 Norman Anderson 57’); #9 Georgie Welcome (#10 Rene Leslie 25’). Coach – Kent Gabourel.
Referee – Christopher Reid.
Finals Game 2, “for all the marbles”:
Saturday, December 9
8:00 p.m. – Belmopan Bandits SC vs Verdes FC – Isidoro Beaton Stadium