Saturday night’s semi-final football matches at the Buxton Ground can be termed a night of upsets.
Buxton United and Amelia’s Ward United pulled off upsets of epic proportions in this year’s 23rd Kashif and Shanghai Football tournament by toppling favourites, Alpha United and Pele to book places in the January 1 final.
In front of a large, animated crowd,the heavy underdogs followed up Amelia’s Ward, two-one upset of Pele, by stunning the star studded favourites, one-nil.
Despite winning by an own goal which sparked wild celebrations by the fans who ran onto the field and lit fire crackers and flairs, Buxton United, looked like the more confident and tactical team throughout the frenetic encounter against the star-laden opposition.
The own goal was scored in the 53rd minute after national forward, Dwain Jacobs, running down the right flank, broke down Alpha’s defence and found himself inside the 18-yard box after which he sent a cross which eluded his teammates but brushed off the thigh of Alpha’s defender, Kelvin McKenzie, beating national keeper, Ronson Williams, sending the crowd into a frenzy.
With a line-up that featured national players like Daniel Wilson, Charles Pollard, Dwight Peters, who netted five goals in the previous games, guest player and star forward of Grenada’s national team, Kithson Bain, national captain, Chris Nurse and former national players, Alpha United was heavily favoured to win the tournament’s top honours.
Buxton United, who knocked out the 2009/2010, tournament champions, Western Tigers, one-nil at the same venue on Boxing Day, did not get the memo and has now earned the reputation of giant killers.
In the frenetic first half, Alpha United and Buxton United failed to find their rhythms on the damp ground and there were a lot of scrappy and broken plays with most of the action in the midfield. Both custodians hardly broke a sweat as both teams especially Buxton United played exceptional defence.
In the second half, both teams came out more aggressively trying to seize the initiative but again the lock down defence of both teams provided little or no fluidity for the offences.
The home team got lucky however when the rampant Jacobs, who has netted two goals in his team’s prior games, broke through the opposition’s defence and sent the wild cross which deflected off of McKenzie.
Prior the goal, Alpha tried valiantly to score while the entire Buxton team switched into defend mode as all their players took up defensive positions. Playing as though their lives depended on it, the city team desperately mounted waves of attack but the balls were either kicked out of bound by the ballers from Buxton or eluded Buxton’s custodian.
Bain had a chance to equalize 10 minutes before the final whistle, but his shot from point blank range, curled just inches off target.
For the next 10 minutes until the final whistle, Alpha tried their very best to find the back of the net while Buxton simply tried to preserve their goal.
Meanwhile, Travis Watterton’s free kick just outside of the 18 yard box in the 18th minute along with Keon Sears’ right footed screamer just inside the 18yard box in the 48th minute, put paid to Pele’s hopes of qualifying for the final.
Travis ‘Zorro’ Grant’s strike two minutes after halftime was not enough for Pele to advance. The city team knotted the score at two-all but the goal in the 80th minute after Romel Gordon buried a touch pass from national forward, Gregory ‘Jackie Chan’ Richardson near the uprights was deemed off side much to the displeasure of Pele’s players and its fans.
Buxton United and Amelia’s Ward United will both look to continue their unbeaten run when the final is staged at the Providence National Stadium. The pride of Linden and the East Coast team, will be vying for the $4M first prize.
Pele, the 2008/2009 winner and four time second place finisher, will tackle the two-time winner, Alpha United in the third place playoff game.
On New Year’s Day, the runner-up team will pocket $1 million, third $750,000 and fourth $500,000. The Most Valuable Player of this year’s competition will drive away with a Toyota Allex motor-car, while the best coach will receive a motorcycle.
Jacobs is perhaps the top candidate to drive off with the vehicle.