BY William Ysaguirre
Verdes FC of Benque Viejo del Carmen won through to the playoffs of the Belikin Cup football tournament as the top-ranked seed, finishing the regular season with 20 pts, despite a dismal showing in a scoreless draw when they hosted the second-ranked Belmopan Bandits at the Marshalleck Stadium on Sunday night, January 12.
Verdes’ Kareem Haylock will have to sit out their first playoff fixture against the fourth ranked FC Belize at the M.C.C. grounds in Belize City on Sunday, January 19, as he was ejected from Sunday night’s game with a red card before the end of first half. Haylock and Julio Ayala had led the Verdes’ offensive supported by the Jimenez brothers: Richard “Cheety” and Orlando “Lichy” on the wings, and Norman “Bat” Pipersburgh and Jacinto Bermudez at midfield.
The Bandits’ defenders Dalton Eiley, Ian Gaynair, Tyrone Pandy and Shane Armstrong had their work cut out keeping the “green machine” in check. The muddy condition of the pitch did not make for any fancy footwork, and the wet slippery ball made goalkeeper Woodrow West’s job even more difficult.
Deon McCaulay and Brandon Peyrefitte led the visitors’ attacks with the help of David “Mikey” Madrid and Floyd Jones on the wings and Deris “Colombia” Benavides and Eric Rodriguez at midfield, but the Verdes’ defenders Everald Trapp, Humberto Requena, San Mendez and Victor Cruz shut them down.
Gilroy “ Bredda” Thurton relieved a bruised and battered Ayala, and Marlon “Matador” Meza replaced Requena in the second half, while Bandits’ technical director Leroy Sherrier Lewis introduced Denis Serano to refresh his offensive line, which he further reinforced with Denmark Casey Jr. and Jerome “Jaro” James, but to no avail.
The odds were evened when Pandy was ejected with a red card for a rear tackle on Trapp, and referee gave Armstrong an early ticket to the showers when he brought down Thurton on the sideline. Jamil Cano replaced Cheety but no goal was scored.
Verdes had also picked up a point in a 1-1 draw with defending champions Police United on Friday night, a back match that had originally been scheduled for midweek, but was rained out last Wednesday and Thursday. Richard Jimenez scored first for Verdes 12 minutes before intermission, but Clifton West equalized for the Police eight minutes into the second half.
The draw shut down the Police’s hopes of a playoff berth as they had needed the full six points from two victories to finish with 17 pts and supersede FC Belize. As it was, Clifton West scored a hat trick in Police United’s 3-1 victory when they hosted San Ignacio United at the Isidoro Beaton Stadium on Sunday night, only Eric Guzman scored for the visitors. In fact, Clifton West had scored all of Police United’s last six goals of the tournament.
The Belize Defence Force also eliminated the Paradise Freedom Fighters from the playoffs by a 1-1 draw at the Carl Ramos Stadium in Dangriga on Sunday. Alex Peters had scored first for the visitors some five minutes after intermission, but Ambrose Thomas equalized for the BDF some 10 minutes before the long whistle. The BDF take on the closing season champions, the Bandits,, at the Isidoro Beaton Stadium on Saturday night.