By Anmar Goodridge-Boyce
Armando “Suga” Lashley scored twice as Paradise kicked off their Barbados Football Association (BFA) 2023 Premier League campaign with a 3-2 victory over University of the West Indies (UWI) Blackbirds on a thrilling night at the Wildey Turf.
In a rematch of the Republic Cup quarter-final last year which set tongues wagging, Paradise and UWI Blackbirds once again gave fans a treat, repaying the support in an entertaining manner on Thursday in the nightcap match.
Just days after he was transferred from Premier League leaders Weymouth Wales, Tyrel Rayside-Demendonca, on his debut, paid dividends by scoring this season’s fastest goal so far after he gave Paradise an early lead with two minutes on the clock.
Paradise players were awarded a freekick deep into Blackbirds’ half and Tyrique Bailey Edwards’ delivery was helped on the way by centre-back Zico Philips before falling gently into the path of Rayside-Demendonca who thumbed a stunning volley past Shaquon Phillips.
UWI Blackbirds, with Barbados Under-17 junior national team coach Fabian Massiah incharge, found their groove mid-way through the first half.
The Blackbirds began to play with more purpose, threating Paradise down the flanks and were rewarded when midfielder Ranaldo Trim fouled Jadon McColin in the box and referee Kevon Clarke pointed to the penalty spot.
UWI Blackbirds captain Ramon Griffith then stepped up and drilled the ball down the middle and into the roof of the net, giving custodian Jason Boxill no chance to make a save in the 34th minute.
The score remained levelled at the half time interval but on the hour mark, Lashley produced a superb freekick from 25 yards to restore Paradise’s lead. Lashley, nicknamed “Suga” brought sweetness to the game with a right-footed curler to beat a flat-footed Phillips.
Six minutes later, Lashley completed a memorable performance in front of new Barbados senior men’s national team head coach Orlando Da Costa and his assistant Ricardo Fernandes, latching onto a perfect cross from Rayside- Demendonca with a brilliant header, nodding the ball out of Phillips’ reach.
Jadon McColin pulled another goal back for UWI Blackbirds eleven minutes from time but Paradise held on to grab three precious points.
“It was a hard fought game, we had to dig deep. We had the Christmas break and right now all the players aren’t up to the best standard but we got the three points. We had two weeks of preparations and it wasn’t that bad but we will get better as the weeks progress in the league,” Lashley said in a post-match interview.
UWI Blackbirds captain Griffith said his team didn’t execute to the best of their ability.
“The coach set out the tactics and plans to suit the Paradise team but unfortunately
we fell short in the middle of the park. Defensively we allowed them too much time on the ball.”
Meantime, in the previous encounter, Wotton FC, boasting a whopping 13 transfers were held to a 3-3 draw against St Andrew Lions. The Christ Church based Wotton were off to the perfect start as Kemar John and Kyle Gibson gave them a two-goal cushion. However, Raymond Hope and Davyuan Clarke both got on the scoresheet as St Andrew Lions roared back into the match. Gibson netted again to give Wotton a 3-2 lead but a late strike from Sadrian Ward ensured the points were shared.