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by RANDY BENNETT INDAR WEIR TRAVEL CENTRE/Barbados Steel Works Top Bay Settlers ended Akademiks’ fine start to the LIME Pelican Football Challenge when they defeated the Pine-based team 2-1 at Kensington Oval Sunday night. Top Bay’s victory not only handed Akademiks – one of the pre-tournament favourites – their first loss, but it also moved them into a three-way tie for first place in Zone “A” with six points, the same as Kick L.G Strike Force and Akademiks. Meanwhile, T.S. Strikers jumped to the top of Zone “B” after trouncing the winless DirecTV Red Snappers 3-0, while Nu Look 360 Connection edged past Scotty’s Tech 4 Less Combined All Stars 1-0 to record their first victory of the competition. In the night’s feature game, Akademiks lost the services of key player Arantees Lawrence who was forced to leave the game in the opening minutes after tumbling to the turf from a tackle and injuring his right shoulder. Top Bay’s custodian Bernard Howell was called into action shortly after when Mario Harte broke free down the right flank and unleashed a powerful shot which Howell did well to turn behind for a corner. And for much of the first half, Akademiks dominated possession without threatening, with Lionel Paul orchestrating play in midfield and Harte keeping the defenders on their toes. So it was against the run of play that Top Bay opened the scoring in the 41st minute. After collecting the ball deep in his defence, Gregory “Lalu” Goodridge’s brilliant ball to Ricardio Morris caught Akademiks’ defence sleeping. It allowed Morris to run on to the pass, and his deftly placed left-foot shot from the corner of the penalty area did not give Akademiks’ keeper Romayne Primus a chance as the ball rolled in off the post. Eight minutes after the half, Top Bay doubled their lead when an attempted clearance landed at the feet of Kent Hall, who shot the ball past a diving Primus. Akademiks pressed forward in search of a goal, and were almost rewarded when Harte’s dangerous cross from the right flank found Paul, but he couldn’t keep his volley down. Paul wasn’t to be denied though, and his very next shot from just inside the 18-yard box left Howell without a chance as Akademiks pulled one back in the 74th minute. Top Bay defended stoutly, and despite being under siege for the final ten minutes, they held on for the win much to the delight of their supporters. Goals win matches, and Red Snappers learnt that the hard way when they went down to T.S Strikers in an entertaining encounter. Despite dominating possession for much of the match, and creating several opportunities, they failed to find the back of the nets. They were made to pay dearly for those misses as goals from Jamal Chandler, in the 45th, Julian Nicholls, in the 55th, and Carlos Nicholls, in the 68th, sent T.S. Strikers atop Zone “B” with seven points from their three games. In the opening game, Kevin Padmore’s tenth-minute goal was all 360 Connection needed to get past All Stars, to move them into a three-way tie for second place in Zone “B” with All Stars and UFO Toyota Firehouse who have played one game less.