– Pele lifts `Holy Grail; waltzes off with one million dollars in pulsating finale
A fifth minute strike by Gerald Wittington propelled Pele Football Club to its first ever Kashif and Shanghai crown following their 1-0 win over fellow city team Sunburst Camptown when the curtains came down on the 19th Annual Christmas tournament on New Year’s Day (Thursday evening ) before a mammoth crowd at the Guyana National Stadium, Providence.
Linden’s Bakewell Topp XX scored a come-from-behind 3-2 victory over the Guyana Defence Force (GDF) to claim the third position.
The final between the newly-crowned Pele and previous two-time winners Camptown, was filled with drama as both teams squandered penalty kicks and several perfect goal-scoring opportunities.
The game’s solitary goal was scored in Pele’s second attack of the match when nippy striker Wittington caught Camptown’s defence napping and sent home a well placed shot to the right of Camptown’s goalkeeper Maurice Price even as the spectators were settling down to witness the encounter.
Camptown immediately went on the offensive and came close to scoring just minutes later when national striker Nigel “Powers” Codrington fired a shot at goal from a corner but the ball struck the far post.
The Campbellville-based side kept up the pressure with Codrington, the experienced Troy “Bugsy” Prescott, Marvin Joseph and Rishawn Sandiford leading the assault.
But Pele’s defence stood up well to the challenge under the watch of national captain
Charles “Lily” Pollard, Solomon Austin and Keoma Gravesande.
Pele also had the opportunity of pushing further ahead when national striker Gregory “Jackie Chan” Richardson, who was tightly marked for most of the match, slipped his markers and sent a perfect pass to captain Dirk Archer who, with only the goalkeeper to beat, ballooned the ball over the crossbar.
Camptown was awarded a penalty midway in the first half after one of Pele’s defence players handled the ball in the penalty area but the ensuing kick by Prescott struck the post and rebounded into play.
Pele defended stoutly and held on to the 1-0 lead at the end of the first half.
The second half saw Camptown continuing to take the fight to their opponents while their captain Orlando Gilgeous and Kester Alleyne, kept close tabs on Richardson.
Richardson, however, once again eluded his markers and squared another sitter but this time Wittington missed the golden opportunity in front of an open goal.
With just few minutes before the final whistle Richardson was brought down in the penalty area but he too missed out on a golden chance when he failed to convert the ensuing kick.
When the final whistle sounded some emotional Pele players shed tears while other celebrated with their supporters who had invaded the field.
In the third-place playoff, Topp XX came from behind twice before scoring a 3-2 win over the GDF in an encounter that went into extra time.
National players Cary Harris with a double and Kayode McKinnon netted for the Linden side while Stellon David hit home a double for the army.
The soldiers had taken an early lead when pugnacious striker David found the back of the net in the second minute of play and held on to the lead throughout the first half.
The GDF side striking line was very aggressive for most of the first half but by midway in the second half Topp XX countered and found the equalizer when McKinnon attacked down the right side and placed the ball in the back of the net in the 56th minute.
David sent the soldiers into the lead once again in the 70th minute but Harris converted a penalty kick for Topp XX two minutes later to tie the match once more at 2-2 and it remained that way until the final whistle.
Harris found the back of the net once again 20 minutes into extra time to give the five-time Kashif and Shanghai champions the third place.
Before the start of the finals, the two teams were met by Guyana’s President Bharrat Jagdeo, Minister of Culture Youth and Sport Dr. Frank Anthony football officials and sponsors.
Pele for their effort carted off a first place package of $1million and other prizes while Camptown settled for $1/2 million.
Topp XX and GDF will also receive cash prizes at the presentation ceremony which will be held shortly.