Grove Hi Tech, Den Amstel storm into quarter-finals
Grove Hi Tech, led by captain Sherman Doris’ brace, stormed into the quarter-finals of the STAG Nations Cup knockout championship involving teams from five associations affiliated to the Guyana Football Federation (GFF).
The championship, which was stalled from last December due to consistent rainfall, made a welcome restart notwithstanding more rainfall which rendered conditions at the Grove Playfield heavy, but that did not deter the zest of the players from the respective teams from going at each other.
The opening match, which necessitated kicks from the penalty mark to decide the winner following a 0-0 score line at the end of regulation and extra time, saw West Demerara’s Den Amstel outlasting Berbice’s New Amsterdam United 5-3, sending the last of four teams from the Ancient County packing.
Witnessed by a fair-sized and very supportive home crowd, Grove Hi Tech quelled the early intentions of the fleet footed duo of New Amsterdam United’s captain Leonard Adams and Jamal Butts, who both carried the attack to the home team and looked threatening.
But the two-time champions of the competition, which attracted teams from three-associations in the previous editions (2014/15, 2015/16), gradually took away the fight from the boys from the east.
First it was a Mervin Squires goal that punctuated the 0-0 score line and handed Grove the lead in the eighth minute of play. It was the first regulation time goal of the goal night which sent the supports into wild celebrations.
As Grove continued to assert themselves they won a free kick from about 25 yards out, directly in front of NA United’s goal. In slippery conditions, a solid blast can see the ball zooming past the wall and goalkeeper into the back of the nets and that was exactly the outcome.
Captain Sherman Doris took on the responsibility of taking the shot and his low, powerful strike sailed past the wall and custodian Jovano Dos Santos to settle in the nets as Grove ran away 2-0 leaders on 25 minutes.
While the home team was riding high, the boys from the east never lost focus and kept matching the home team play for play. They soon earned their first goal in the 30th minute when Jermaine Samuels tucked his shot past Gove’s man between the uprights, Seon Sampson.
Like Grove, NA United got their second goal and equaliser from a free kick, which was also orchestrated by their captain, Leonard Adams whose powerful strike could not be saved cleanly by Sampson as it rebounded off his chest into the onrushing Butts who gleefully tapped into the back of the nets on the stroke of half time.
It was a deserving goal as the momentum had swung back in favour the visitors to set up what was anticipated to be an enthralling final 45 minutes. There was no relenting from either side in the opening minutes of the second half as they both sought to establish dominance and more so, score goals.
But it was the home team that not only dominated but also scored goals to knock the wind out of the sails of NA United. Captain Doris again featured when he handed his team the team with another well executed shot in the 52nd minute.
As the changes were rung by both teams by introducing fresh legs, Grove’s insertions brought the reward of their fourth goal off the boot of Joel Dick in the 84th minute, a goal which sealed the win and their quarter-final place against Police next Wednesday night at the GDF ground in the feature match at 21:00h.
Den Amstel and Ann’s Grove, loser in both previous finals to Grove Hi Tech, battled for 105 minutes with being able to score against each other. Both sides created chances with the East Coast based Ann’s Grove guilty of flooring what had appeared to be clear cut opportunities, at least two from close range. The were also denied by excellent goalkeeping from Den Amstel’s, Ryan Hunte who would have won the MVP of the match if there was such an award.
They eventually paid for their mistakes as Den Amstel posted their second win of the championship following their 4-2 win over Kuru Kururu Warriors. The West Demerara based boys prevailed 5-3 via kicks from the penalty mark and will now face Riddim Squad in next Wednesday’s penultimate quarter final at the GDF ground.
Scoring for the winners were Gavin Graham, Kevaughn Ward, Ryan Hunte, Travis Hilliman and Andre Hector. On target for the losers were Jermaine Clarke, Levon Adams and Kevon Barry; Marlon Adams missed their second shout which eventually brought their downfall.
Meanwhile, quarter-final action will get cracking on Sunday at the Tucville ground in a Georgetown versus West Demerara showdown. Santos will open against Pouderoyen from 18:00h with Western Tigers and Uitvlugt clashing in the main attraction. At stake will be two spots in the semi-finals.