Barbados Defence Force Sports Programme (BDFSP) reclaimed their status as kings of the Barbados Football Association Premier League when they edged former two-time champions Weymouth Wales 5-4 on aggregate last night at the Wildey, St. Michael AstroTurf.
In a best of three premier league championship final, zone one winners Wales and group two champions BDFSP played to a 2-2 draw in the opening match. Former three-time league champions BDFSP then placed one hand on the trophy when they emerged victorious 2-0 in the second game. That then put pressure on Wales to score three goals during yesterday’s third and decisive match.
Wales, league kings in 2017 and 2018, scored two early goals in the opening 25 minutes [20th and 24th] of play compliments Romario Harewood and Walton Burrowes to level the aggregate 4-4.
That forced the match into extra time [two halves of fifteen minutes each] and BDFSP’s utility man Rashad Smith with his tenth goal of the season scored to cut the deficit by one (1-2) and give his BDFSP team captained by Raheim Sargeant a hard-fought 5-4 victory on aggregate.
Successful coach Asquith Howell said the BDFSP team continues to excel and elatedly expressed that within the last ten years of competing in the premier league they have either won or came runners-up.
Despite not having the best of starts in the opening 25 minutes of the game and conceding two goals within that space of time, Howell was still pleased with the resilience shown by the men dressed in yellow.
“Our first fifteen minutes was a cracker in terms of not playing properly and running about the park. We weren’t disciplined enough resulting in a lot of pressure being put on us. Two, we are aware that Weymouth Wales is a quality team, and we always knew they would have come at us. And having said that our best sequence is the attack, so, therefore, I was not coming here tonight to play defensive football because we were up two. Our aim was to attack; it was just that we weren’t getting it right in the first fifteen minutes. But after the two goals were scored we did a lot better with the ball and also created chances which are the hallmark of BDFSP team,” Howell said.
Each of the 12 premier league teams split into two groups played 22 matches and new champions BDFSP accumulated the highest number of points with 52 having won 16, drawn four and lost two with a goal difference of 58 – 75 goals for and 17 against.
Meanwhile, Wales topped group one with 41 points from 22 games, won 12, drew and lost five each with a goal difference of 33 – 52 goals for and 19 against.
When the whistle of seasoned referee Gillian Martindale sounded, Wales attacked purposefully knowing very well their title was at stake.
Running towards the Sargeant Village end, Wales coached by Thomas Jordan scored the opening goal thanks to Romario Harewood with a fantastic shot taken from inside the 18-yard box off an Hadan Holligan back-heel pass.
Four minutes later in the 24th minute, Wales grew in confidence with goal number two scored by Walton Burrowes with a leaping header taken off a cross made on the left flank by Rico Graham who did well to avert BDFSP’s defensive pressure.
It appeared as though those who were confident that Wales could have staged one of the best comebacks in the local premier league were about to be proven right.
Well, that was until BDFSP’s go-to man Rashad Smith joined the party in the first half of overtime [97th minute] with a superb header taken off a T’ Shane Lorde delivery from the left corner. BDFSP had looked a lot more composed than they did in the first half.
And that goal by Smith in overtime came just after Omani Leacock unleashed a 25-yard strike that Wales custodian Omari Eastmond denied with left-sided diving save.
BDFSP found themselves in a spot of bother during the 110th minute with only ten men on the field after Rasheed Williams received his second yellow card of the match which resulted in an automatic red. So intense was the exchanges on the night that referee Martindale distributed 11 yellow cards.
Both teams had a few players missing especially Wales who made a few changes to their squad by having captain Jabar Green and Antoine Greaves in the starting 11 instead of attackers Rashida Williams and Arantees Lawrence.
Williams came on as a substitute in the 55th minute for Green while Lawrence was noticeably absent from the bench along with defender Renaldo Marquez.
The soldiers also entered the third and final championship game without crucial players Akeem Hill and Renaldo Trim both red-carded in the second match of the championship final. Left attacking midfielder Rashad Jules and defender Shane Codrington are both on two-year contracts at Kemi City Football Club in Finland.
Howell explained that BDFSP was a developmental team, and therefore when players leave, it was a cycle they prepared for regularly. And this the veteran coach proved against Wales who fought to the very end but could not score past the BDFSP defence. National goalkeeper Kishmar Primus also played a significant role in front of the goal bars which was part of a combination of factors that resulted in the soldiers winning the league title.