The BPFL semifinals are over, and it is now time for the “big dance”, the championship finals series for the Caribbean Motors Cup. Yesterday, in games 2 of the home and away semifinal series, both home teams, Toledo Ambassadors and defending champion Belize Defence Force, were victorious in convincing fashion, over F.C. Belize and San Felipe Barcelona, respectively.

Punta Gorda fans jammed the main bleachers and behind the wire fence on the southern sideline yesterday at the Toledo Union field, to watch their Toledo Ambassadors gain an impressive 3-0 semifinal victory over visiting F.C. Belize (last week they drew 1-1 in Belize City), which, for the first time in recent memory, catapulted the Toledo representative into the BPFL championship final series. A handicapped F.C. Belize, still missing the Nigerian Christian Okonkwo, and with three regular starters – Ian Gaynair, Leon Cadle and Alfred Garnett – serving suspensions for yellow card accumulation, received a further setback just three minutes after the opening whistle, when veteran sweeper Allie Thurton suffered a serious muscle strain and had to leave the game a couple minutes later. Meanwhile, midfielder Dav McCaulay, whose task was to neutralize Ambassadors veteran Robert Muschamp, was suffering from stomach problems and could not return for the 2nd half.

On the other hand, Toledo was minus their young Guatemalan striker Elio Ramirez, who was reportedly investigating a contract in Guatemala; and defensive midfielder Bernard Linares, who was serving the third of a 4-game suspension. Nevertheless, Ambassadors were still in command, with the midfield duo of Muschamp and Wilmer Garcia flanked by the Makin brothers, Devon and Andres, Jr., creating opportunities for their twin strikers Ashley Torres and Ralph Flores. But the day belonged to Flores, who struck twice in the first half, a short range bomb after a break through at the 21st minute, and an overhead tap at the 30th to beat on-coming F.C. Belize goalie Elden Linares, for the 2-nil first half lead.

F.C. Belize tried to regroup in the 2nd half, and Byron Usher’s header seemed to cut the score in half, but referee Gerald Henry ruled offside. Toledo fans were not resting easy until the 80th minute, when it was Ralph Flores again, receiving a long overhead pass on the left side and unleashing a low left foot scorcher from the top of the eighteen that found the back of the net. 3-nil, Toledo Ambassadors, and the P.G. fans were already celebrating the victory, and looking ahead to next Sunday’s date with the defending champion.

Meanwhile, out west at the Norman Broaster Stadium, the defending champions Belize Defence Force, were “taking no prisoners”, extending their “BDF Day”, celebrated on Saturday at Price Barracks, to Sunday at the Norman Broaster with a 6-2 shellacking of San Felipe Barcelona, the only team to hand the army a defeat in the regular season. BDF only needed a draw, having won game 1 last week, 2-1, in Orange Walk. But the Defence Force was all attack yesterday, with Daniel “Danny” Jimenez hitting the target at the 30th and 40th minute, David Trapp at the 36th and Vallan Symms from the penalty spot at the 38th minute, to give BDF a comfortable 4-nil lead at halftime. And Richard “Cheety” Jimenez made it 5-nil with his strike early into the resumption at the 52nd minute. Always a strong 2nd half team, San Felipe got on the scorecard with Harvey Cruz converting a penalty at the 81st minute, but BDF’s Evan Mariano responded immediately after at the 82nd minute, to keep the 5 goal margin at 6-1. Jaziz Wicab came right back for San Felipe with his goal at the 83rd minute, but it was too little too late; 6-2, Belize Defence Force, and another date in the home and away championship series.

As expected, BDF has opted to play game 1 on the road.

Championship series schedule:
Sunday, February 6, Game 1
4:00 p.m. – Toledo Ambassadors vs Belize Defence Force - Toledo Union Field
Sunday, Februry 13, Game 2
4:00 p.m. – Belize Defence Force vs Toledo Ambassadors - Norman Broaster Stadium

Amandala