It was the clash of the tournament so far. And when the dust cleared, the previously unbeaten Akademiks tasted defeat for the first time this season when they went down 2-1 to the rampant Top Bay Settlers in the feature encounter of the Lime Pelican Football Challenge at Kensington Oval last night.
A large crowd turned up to see the two evenly matched teams do battle, but with most expecting Akademiks to have their way with Top Bay Settlers. After all, Settlers were coming off a humbling experience after being demolished 3-0 last week by Strike Force. But Settlers rode on the brilliant efforts of their youthful national player Ricardio Morris to deliver a stunning performance.
Settlers also had much for which to thank experienced mid-fielder Kent Hall.
Hall dominated the mid-field and was basically the fulcrum on which Settlers based much of their play. Hall was also quick to drop back in defence when the necessity arose and was a tower of strength for the winners.
Morris’ young legs kept him going all night and he was a thorn in the side of Akademiks, stymieing many of their offensive forays and in the 40th minute, dropping a dagger in the hearts of Akademics’ supporters when he found the back of the nets.
Settlers kept on the attack the remainder of the half but did not add to their tally. But about eight minutes after the resumption, the consistent Ryan Griffith, who had threatened to score in the first half, duly got his name on the score sheet with a fortuitous effort to give Settlers a two-goal cushion.
If anything, Settlers seemingly decided to sit back a bit on their two-goal advantage and soaked up quite a bit of pressure as Akademiks, stung by the two goals, sought to get the equaliser. But Settlers’ defence stood tall, repulsing every wave that came their way with Morris being outstanding, as was Stuart Hall.
However, in the 74th minute the persevering Lionel Paul pulled a goal back for Akademiks to give them hope of a comeback.
They tried for the equaliser and almost conceded a third but for some scrambling defence by Settlers.
With the clock winding down, Settlers held on for an important win and left Akademiks to go back to the drawing board to assess what went wrong.
The real 360 Connection finally turned up at the competition after a rather lacklustre start to the tournament where they have drawn one game and lost heavily in another.
An early 10th minute goal by Kevin Padmore was all that separated the two teams but the points would have restored much confidence to last year’s losing finalists. For All Stars it was a big disappointment, losing their first game of the tournament.
Meanwhile, TS Strikers continued their winning ways with a third victory when they easily defeated Red Snappers 3-0.
Snappers never looked a match for the winners, and if anything, were lucky not to concede more goals than those scored by Jamal Chandler (44th), Julian Nicholls (55th) and Carlos Nicholls (68th).
On Thursday, Galaxy take on Firehouse and Red Tridents come up against Strike Force as the action continues at the Oval.