AT A GLANCE:
Sap beat Asot’s Arcade Parham 5-1
Sani Pro Fort Road beat Jennings Grenades 1-0
Cool and Smooth Hoppers beat LIME Old Road 1-0
Fitzroy’s Rewinding Pigotts Bullets beat Cool and Smooth Empire 2-0
Ottos Rangers and Five Islands draw 1-1
By Ian “Magic” Hughes
A hat-trick by Peter “Big Pete” Byers derailed a positive start to Asot Arcade’s defense of its Premier Division title, as the champions went down 5-1 to Sap at the Antigua Recreation Grounds (ARG) in the feature game on Sunday.
It might have been a shocking defeat for Parham but Sap’s coach, Janiel “Board” Simon, said he knew he was capable of stopping the champions.
“We have a veteran team and we were always confident that we could beat Parham,” Simon said. “The nucleus of this team has been together since we won our first championship more than seven years ago and, with the blend of new talent, we have a balanced team.”
Byers, captain of the team, led from the front; and, from the start, it was clear that Parham was in trouble.
Center back Akeem “Leppy” Thomas, a tower of strength who is off island, was sorely missing in Parham’s defence.
Ranjae Christian tried his best in the back but his aging legs could not keep pace with Sap’s strike force led by Byers, who was ably assisted by Norvel “Boy-Boy” Francis and Elvis “Chung” Thomas.
SAP STRIKES EARLY
Byers gave Sap the lead when he powered past a disjointed Parham defence with a tame-but-smart nudge past goalkeeper Molvin James in the 14th minute.
A few minutes later, Byers’ opposite number, Tevaughn “Peter Redz” Harriet, squandered an opportunity to equalize, which proved fatal for Parham.
Sap’s speed and determination left Parham down by two just four minutes after the initial strike when Francis slotted home from distance.
The goal came from an initial build-up that started with Byers – who caught the Parham defence reeling – who then found Francis on the edge of the 18.
Francis’ right-footed shot was hit with precision into the right side of the net, leaving James outstretched but unable to make the save. Two-nil Sap.
Harriet, the golden boot recipient of the 2014-2015 season, gave Parham some life seven minutes before the break. The fleet-footed player picked up a ball outside the box, beat two defenders and hit home with precision.
Parham returned with a vengeance from the break and looked poised to level the match but the intensity was short-lived.
Odell Murray gave Sap a two-goal cushion 17 minutes past intermission after Byers ran past the defense on the right and found him open inside the six, setting up a clear shot.
Three minutes later, Byers was at it again. This time he was let loose inside the six following a corner kick, which went from right to left then to the middle, where Byers muscled his way to hit past James.
Fifteen minutes before regulation, Byers completed his hat-trick when he took on three defenders before coming away with an open shot, which he netted with pace.
IN OTHER MATCHES
Sani Pro Fort Road, courtesy a goal from Zakeem Michael in the 16th minute, beat Jennings Grenades 1-0 in the first game of Sunday’s triple-header.
In game two of the day, Tamarley “Ziggy” Thomas’ lone strike in the 21st minute gave Cool and Smooth Hoppers a 1-0 win over LIME Old Road.
On Saturday, in the opening game of the season, Ottos Rangers and Five Islands played to a 1-1 draw.
Alex Phillip scored the first goal of the season to give Five Islands the lead before William Lewis equalized nine minutes from time.
The feature match on Saturday saw the highly-anticipated rebirth of Cool & Smooth Empire in the Premier Division.
Despite the fanfare Empire went down 2-0 to Fitzroy’s Rewinding Pigotts Bullets.
Alickson Montoute gave Bullets the lead in the 26th minute before Troy Reid finished off the former 13-time champions in extra time.
This coming Saturday, Sap will play Fort Road and Grenades and Rangers will battle.
Sunday’s triple-header will feature Parham and Empire after Five Islands take on Hoppers. Before that, Bullets and Old Road will battle.