Both games 1 in the Premier League home-and-away semifinals yesterday were drawn.
It was a scoreless affair down at the Placencia Football Field between visiting North Zone winners Belize Defence Force (BDF) and the home standing South Zone 2nd place team Placencia Assassins. BDF was reportedly without the services of Deon McCaulay who is said to be out of the country.
Meanwhile, here at the MCC Grounds in Belize City, South Zone #1 seed Police United also played to a draw, this one 2-2, against North Zone #2 seed F.C. Belize. An uncharacteristic fumble just after kickoff by Police captain Orlando "Leechi" Jimenez was compounded when F.C. Belize's Jeremy (Archer) Bermudez' low center from the right side into the northern goal led to some confusion between the Police defence and goalkeeper Glenford Chimilio, allowing F.C.'s Jeromy "Jarro" James to tap in an easy first goal for the 1-nil lead in the first minute of play. It was a shocking early setback for the favorites, Police, who sported an undefeated record going into the ball game. But the regular season record was all for naught in the semifinals.
It was a keenly contested match, with Police's Jarret Davis and Shannon Flowers both forced to sit out this one due to yellow cards, and their midfielder James Logan, Jr., also unavailable due to injury. It was the first meeting between the two teams, and Police, while keeping their main back line of Glen "Tipu" Martinez on the right, Kishane "Grill" Pech sweeping, and Amando Dubon on the left, activated their two tall "Liborio" style talents, Bernard "Hijo" Linares and Trevor "Burger" Lennon, at the same time, adding greater force to their offensive thrusts, but often leaving open spaces in the central area of their defence. Leechi generaled the Police attack from midfield, while the Makin brothers, Andres, Jr. on the left and Devon on the right, along with the fleet footed Evan Marinao and Lennox "Criminal" Castillo up front, posed a formidable offensive threat that kept F.C. defenders under constant pressure.
F.C. Belize countered with the sturdy Thomas Castro and slim but physical Leon "Chow" Cadle in the central midfield area, with fast and sharp-shooting Francisco "Peely" Briceno on the right and incisive passing David "Gringo" Ramos on the left. Ian "Yellow" Gaynair controlled the defensive right flank, with captain Christopher Gilharry sweeping behind Honduran Ivor Arriola, while rookie Matthew Leal held the left defence position. Starting strikers were "Jarro" James and Jeremy (Archer) Bermudez, with Elroy "Zabble" Rowley in goal.
The equalizer for Police came at the 23rd minute when big Bernard "Hijo" Linares found some space on the right side and suddenly released a low rocket from almost 30 yards out that bounced ahead of a diving Zabble into the left corner. Police kept up the pressure, and it was Leechi on the right side, receiving a short tap off a corner from Devon Makin, and then beating one defender and then another along the goal line, before placing a cross goal pass for incoming Evan Mariano. In the rumble in front of goal, F.C. Belize defender Ivor Arriola tried to turn back Mariano's attempt, but Ivor only got a piece of it, and the ball bounced into the net for an "own" goal.
F.C. Belize never backed down, though, and came back strong with a few close calls, the best of which was a long drive from Briceno around the 35th minute, that caused Police's Glen "Tipu" Martinez to leap high near the goal line to head out what seemed a sure scoring opportunity for a trailing Thomas Castro. David Ramos also made a number of dangerous drops across goal, searching for Jarro and Jeremy.
At halftime, trailing 2-1, F.C. Belize coaching staff of Ian Henry and Anthony "Willie Bo" Bernard had some added words of wisdom and inspiration from Marvin Ottley, and they came out focused and determined to make a comeback in second half; and they did.
Some confusion in the Police defence again led to an opportunity for F.C. Belize about 15 minutes into 2nd half, resulting in a penalty, which F.C. Belize captain Chris Gilharry drove into the left corner to tie the score at 2-2.
It was anybody's ball game the rest of the way, but neither could secure the game winner, and it ended, 2-2.
From our unofficial count, referee Irfan Basdemir handed out 5 yellow cards (Trevor Lennon, Devon Makin, Glen Martinez and Lennox Castillo from Police United; and Chris Gilharry of F.C. Belize) during the game, which may have an impact during the course of the playoffs.
According to a Premier League release today, the playoffs are being played under the Cup System format, so that, since both first games were drawn, each of this coming weekend's semifinals game 2 must produce a winner. "If at the end of regulation time (90 min) the score is even, extra time will be added in the form of two 15-minute periods. Should the score still be even after the extra time, the winner will be decided by penalty shoot-out."
Semifinal games #2 schedule:
Saturday, April 28
7:30 p.m. - Police United vs F.C. Belize - Isidoro Beaton Stadium
7:30 p.m. - Belize Defence Force vs Placencia Assassins - Norman Broaster Stadium Amandala