By Ian “Magic” Hughes
Former 13-time champions Cool and Smooth Empire came from a goal down to beat defending champions Asot’s Arcade Parham 2-1 during their weekend Premier Division match at the Antigua Recreation Grounds (ARG).
It was a thriller, at least in the second half, after both teams failed to score in the first 45 minutes.
The game was billed as a must-win for both teams after opening losses last week, but the level of intensity, at first, belied the importance of the match.
Both teams gave up chances, leading to a nil-all score line at the half.
Soon after intermission, Parham took the fight to the newly-promoted Empire and were rewarded with a penalty following an injudicious play in the area.
That gift was, however, returned to the sender, as Empire’s keeper did well to make the save on the spot kick shot by Tremaine Paul.
But, moments later, with Parham still on the hunt, the goal that eluded the champions for more than an hour finally came in the 65th minute. And what a goal it was: a glancing header on a cross from the left flank inside the six.
Kevon Slater out-manoeuvred the Empire defence to give Parham the lead, which they maintained for fewer than 10 minutes.
Having lost the season opener to Pigotts Bullets a week ago, Empire lifted their game, thanks to substitute Justin “Trini” Pereira, whose insertion breathe new life in the Empire attack.
Pereira, known for his love of the big stage, showed why he was once considered one of the more entertaining players.
Some of the plays from his glory days returned, and the heavy-footed Parham defence was unable to cope with the midfielder’s nifty moves and delicate passes.
Pereira scored the team’s first goal and assisted on the winner much to the delight of the Empire faithful; and there were many at the ARG.
The right side of Parham’s defence was the main target of attack, which Pereira exploited on both conversions.
He sliced through the defence in the middle, passed to the weak right side, and then slotted the return pass away from an outstretched Molvin James.
With the score levelled, Pereira again went on attack.
Ten minutes after the tying goal, Kakeem Joseph shot from almost the seat of his pants. It was a looping ball that drifted over the head of James and into the back of the net.
In two weeks, the defending champions have given up seven goals and scored just two. COMEBACK FOR HOPPERS AND BULLETS
The opening matches of Sunday’s triple-header saw comebacks by Hoppers and Bullets, as both teams were trailing by two goals in their respective matches to end tied 2-2.
Five Islands had Hoppers two goals down 10 minutes into play after Daniel Francis opened the scoring in the sixth minute and Samuel Semper added a second four minutes later.
Linval Wilson pulled a goal back in the 25th minutes, and Five Islands took a 2-1 lead into the break.
Five Islands were unable to hold on for victory, as Jari Jackson scored with four minutes left in regulation time.
In the second game of the day, Flow Old Road rushed to a two-goal lead over Pigotts Bullets, with Rashad Jules and Stephen Smith converting in the 23rd and 30th minutes respectively.
Alickson Montoute cut the lead from the penalty spot on the brink of half time, before Casim Stevens equalised 20 minutes from regulation time.