Reigning double-crown champions Weymouth Wales began their title defence last night with a 2-0 victory over Brittons Hill United at the Empire Ground at Bank Hall. It was a historic occasion that saw local premiership football being televised live for the first time.
For their winning performance, the league kings earned $500 prize money and three points. The large crowd was treated to a goal each from Man-of-the-Match Romario Harewood and Riverre Williams on the opening night of the 2018 Barbados Football Association (BFA) league season.
Also cashing in on the BDS$100 Man-of-the-Match prize was attacking midfielder Rashad Jules with the lone goal in the 88th minute for former three-time champions Barbados Defence Force Sports Programme against Crane and Equipment Ellerton.
Mid-fielder Derrine Gale-Forde scored the lone goal for Abrahams United Silver Sands in the second encounter against Empire in the 77th minute. But when the night was over, it was his teammate Dante McClean who had a hundred reason to smile.
Those two fixtures, however, did not compare to the featured match between two of the oldest clubs in local football.
Wales have immense depth and the fact that they started with two of their most lethal marksmen in Hadan Holligan and Kemar Headley, returning from injury, and still had Arantees Lawrence, Riverre Williams and Tristan ‘Fishy’ Parris on the bench to call upon, was a testament to how strong this unit really is.
Both Holligan and Headley had opportunities to give the men in green their first goal of the season but Brittons Hill’s defence led by captain Rohan Hall and Omar Archer ensured it never materialised.
After several failed attempts, BFA’s 2017 coach of the year David Ward went for the jugular, first by bringing on national forward Lawrence to replace Rico Graham in the 63rd minute and then a while after in the 86th Williams took over from Barbados’ prolific midfielder Holligan.
Lawrence wasted no time getting himself busy, taking possession of the ball and at one point driving forcefully towards the left far post of the goal bar where Brittons Hill custodian Shaquille Frank came up with a fantastic diving save.
A couple seconds after that play from Lawrence, Wales finally broke the 0-0 deadlock via a corner shot that came in from the right in the 87th minute. Frank, under pressure yet again, made connection with the ball but was unable to keep it in his grasp. That left Brittons Hill’s defence scrambling and Williams with a simple tap seized the opportunity to give his team the 1-0 advantage they so badly needed.
There were lots of stoppages during the game starting with FIFA- certified referee Gillian Martindale taking close to three minutes to restore peace among the players who were arguing among themselves. Following that Martindale came off not feeling well and had to be replaced by fourth official Adrian Goddard in the 70th minute.
Brittons Hill who were without the services of Dwayne ‘Schillaci’ Stanford and Curtis Odle needed to equalize and even though they had several set-plays mostly taken by Romario Small with his curling corner shots, Wales’ back four comprising Teriq Highland, Ramar Millar, Akeem Maloney and Kemar Bartlett were as solid as it could get.
As stand-in fourth official Tonia Deane raised her hands to show seven minutes of additional time on the board, Wales were celebrating goal number two in the 90th minute thanks to Romario Harewood with the easiest of goals.
A ball squared from the right by goal scorer Williams found Harewood who executed a shot aimed directly towards Frank. As he went down to make the save the ball somehow went through him and over the goal line.
The only thing left for Brittons Hill’s bench to do was to hold their heads, as Frank slammed his hands into the turf three times in pure disbelief and frustration which basically summed up the night for manager Fabian Wharton and his men in black and white.