JOHN’S, Antigua (October 28, 2015) – On Sunday, Empire not only fought back; they shocked Sap by coming from two goals down with 20 minutes remaining to win 4-3.
The dramatic victory could not have been scripted any better for the team that was humiliated in the Gray’s Green derby two weeks ago. This time around, it was markedly different.
In the first game of the triple header in the ABFA Premier Division, fans were treated to the real deal. Better yet, it was the Azihno Solomon show.
And what a show it was: a dazzling display of moves, passes and goals by the St. Vincent and the Grenadines national team striker.
Solomon, one of the leading scorers in St. Vincent, was held back against Hoppers scoring the lone, late goal in Empire’s 4-1 defeat.
But Sunday, the Vincentian gave the fans what they wanted and more, to upset the then league leaders.
Early on, Empire seemed destined for another defeat, as Sap took a 3-1 lead.
A spectacular corner kick from the left flank by Okeem “Soda” Challenger found the back of a challenging Jermaine Browne and the back of the net.
Challenger had opened the scoring in the fourth minute before Solomon equalized one minute later.
With the scores leveled and halftime approaching, a critical error by keeper Randy Nicholas afforded Sap the lead once more.
Novelle “Boy-Boy” Francis caught Christian off his line and hit over the keeper’s head from an acute angle on the right side.
Empire went into the dressing room in obvious discomfort.
In the second half, Christian made up for his poor judgment in the first session to stop national striker Peter “Big Pete” Byers on a one-on-one encounter.
On a number of other occasions, Christian came up trumps, making save after save, redeeming himself along the way.
Twenty minutes after intermission, however, Sap made another breakthrough, on Challenger’s corner kick.
That goal seemed to have ignited a fire in the Empire camp and coach Steveroy “Demon” Anthony made a change that turned the game his way.
Anthony sent in veteran striker Kenny Morgan who along with Solomon and Rodney Lawrence took over the game.
A build-up by the trio opened up space for Hakeem Joseph, who slotted home from inside the area five minutes after Sap’s third goal.
The equalizer followed 14 minutes later.
Solomon again weaved his way through the Sap defence to find an open Lawrence alone just outside the six.
Lawrence hit a one-time shot confidently into the open goal, which drew huge cheers from the Empire fans.
There was more to come, and when it did, it capped off another dazzling build-up by Morgan, Lawrence and Solomon.
This time, Solomon, after passing to Lawrence, eased his way to the middle of the area in time to receive a ball from Morgan passed in from the right flank.
Solomon made no mistake as he slotted home in style with one minute left in regulation.
The comeback complete and the shock apparent as a number of Sap players fell to the ground in disbelief, the whistle sounded to end the contest.
PARHAM DEFEAT RANGERS
Parham moved to the top of the standings with another impressive display by captain and national striker Tevaughn “Peter Redz” Harriette.
Three weeks ago, the defending champions were languishing at the bottom of the table following back-to-back losses to Sap and Empire.
Harriette ensured that Parham will defend its title with vigor as they entertained Ottos Rangers on Sunday in the second of three games scheduled.
The diminutive striker, who has deceptive speed and strength, powered his way to four goals to improve his overall tally to 11 and 10in three matches.
Rangers bore the burden of Harriette’s attack, losing 5-2 after William Lewis had given Rangers the lead in the 20th minute.
Lewis fired from about 25 yards out to beat keeper Molvin James, who seemed cemented to the ground.
The ball headed the keeper’s way for a while and he waited for it to reach but it never did.
The ball, hit with ferocity from the outside of Williams’ right instep, deceived the keeper as it sliced right, finding James rooted in bewilderment.
The strike evoked huge cheers from the spectators, one of whom shouted “What a banana.”
That goal seemed to signal urgency in Parham and Harriette, who got the equalizer on a penalty kick five minutes after Lewis’ strike.
Randolph “Etty” Burton gave Parham the lead five minutes from intermission on a weak shot that eluded the Rangers keeper, Michael Lewis.
Harriette then gave Parham a two-goal cushion four minutes prior to the break when he lobbed a ball over the head of the advancing keeper.
The national striker brought up his hat-trick 10 minutes after half time when a streaking Ranjae Christian found him open in the area and he slotted home with ease.
Trailing 4-1, Rangers pulled a goal back on a powerful left-footed shot past Orson Forde who replaced James in goal for Parham during the break.
Harriette was not done yet, as he saved his best effort for last.
He showed that he was not just strong and fast, but that he has the ability to get up high as well.
The diminutive striker, sandwiched between two defenders, rose above them to head home a pass from the right flank.
The ball came off his forehead with pace and accuracy and went into the back of the net.
GRENADES STOP OLD ROAD
In the feature game of the night Grenades edged out Old Road 2-1 in a match that had some thrilling moments.
Old Road took the lead on Stephan “Tommy” Smith header in the 13th minute before a back heel inside the six by Rakeem Henry tied the game for Grenades.
Twenty minutes after intermission, and with custodian Michaud Barrett keeping his heart out, Kyle Edwards broke the deadlock.
He received a pass from Henry following a good build-up on the right side to give Jennings a much needed victory.