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Shock exit for Bajan Elite

Shock exit for Bajan Elite Henderson Richards struck a hat-trick for Top Bay Settlers in a seven-goal thriller at the National Stadium Sunday night. (Kenmore Bynoe)

By RANDY BENNETT | Tue, November 12, 2013 - 12:04 AM

FROM UNBEATEN to crestfallen. That was the story of Emmerson Boyce Fifth Avenue Fashion Bajan Elite on Sunday night after they were shockingly eliminated from the LIME Pelican Football Challenge at the quarter-final stage.

Having eased through the preliminary rounds of the competition on their way to a perfect 5-0 start, Bajan Elite couldn’t have picked a worse time to notch their first loss of the competition, being blanked 2-0 by a well-prepared L.G. Kick Strike Force unit at the National Stadium.

Joining Strike Force in the semi-finals will be Barbados Steelworks Esso Oistins Top Bay Settlers, who, thanks to a hat-trick from super-sub Henderson Richards, were able to outlast Scotty’s Tech 4 Less Combined All Stars 4-3 in extra-time.

The defeat would have been an especially hard pill to swallow for All Stars, as it marked the third successive year in which they failed to make it past the quarter-finals.

Playing in the night’s first game, Mustafa Haqq put Top Bay ahead in just the sixth minute, when his powerful shot beat All Stars’ keeper Paul Alexander at the near post and cannoned into the back of the net.

Shaquille Boyce brought the game back on level terms in the 33rd minute when he easily slotted past Top Bay’s goalkeeper Bernard Howell, after he was expertly played through by Tristan “Fishy” Parris.

And five minutes into the second half, Damien Husbands’ spectacular free kick from 25 yards out, which gave a diving Howell no chance, looked to have sent All Stars into the semi-finals.

Boyce then squandered two easy opportunities to seal the deal, sending his shots wide both times with Howell at his mercy.

All Stars were made to pay dearly for those misses when Richards rose to head home Kent Hall’s accurate cross from point blank range in the 75th minute to make it 2-2.

A neatly placed strike in the 91st minute which beat an advancing Alexander, followed by another header off a Gregory “Lalu” Goodridge free kick in the 98th, brought up Richards’ hat-trick and gave Top Bay a two-goal lead.

Boyce pulled one back in the 107th minute for All Stars, before the referee denied a penalty appeal on the last kick of the game, after Boyce twisted and turned his way past three defenders before falling in the box.

There was a buzz around the Stadium as Bajan Elite and Strike Force made their way onto the pitch accompanied by the customary FIFA anthem.

However, that buzz was soon replaced by wild celebrations from Strike Force fans when Dwayne Mars lunged into the eight-yard box unmarked, following a corner, to tap home from close range in the ninth minute.

Surprisingly, although boasting of quality players such as Jeffrey Williams, Kemar Headley, Riviere Williams and Romario Harewood in their line-up, Bajan Elite never played to their usual high standards.

Jeffrey Williams, the national captain, turned in what was arguably his worst performance of the competition, needlessly passing the ball away on several occasions, and wasting numerous free kicks.

Headley, Riviere Williams and Harewood weren’t much better and were almost non-existent throughout the match.

Uncharacteristically, they failed to create any clear-cut goal-scoring opportunities, and in fact, the margin of defeat could have been bigger had Strike Force been more clinical in front of goal.

Both Hayden Holligan and Diquan Adamson wasted chances to put the game away, although Adamson did eventually make amends.

After Holligan had inexplicably skied his close range effort over the crossbar, Adamson led a quick Strike Force counter-attack on their very next possession, which ended with him sliding his shot past goalkeeper Jason Boxill in the 83rd minute to put an end to Bajan Elite’s resistance.

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