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Thu, Jun

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Reyes clinches it in penalty shootout

BOYS TOWN left Athletico literally in tears on Saturday night with a dramatic penalty shootout victory in the final of the Sweet Sixteen Football League at the Ojoe Road Recreation Ground, Sangre Grande.

With defeat in their last three finals in the neighbouring Fishing Pond League, Boys Town were determined to end their drought and get their hands on the “sweet” $50,000 first prize.

And they looked well on their way to achieving that goal with two first half goals from Jamal Creighton and Anslem Jackson putting them in the driver seat. Athletico, outplayed for almost the entire first half, pulled one back through Nathan Julien before the break to give themselves a fighting chance. And immediately upon the resumption, Athletico knotted the scores with a penalty. The comeback was almost fully complete when Julien struck the post in the final minute of added-on time.

With penalties needed to crown a champion, Boys Town scored on the fourth round to take a 4-3 lead in the shootout. MVP of the tournament and Best Goalkeeper Akil Timothy of Boys Town then saved Athletico’s fourth kick with an acrobatic dive to his right to push the ball wide.

Boys Town captain Irvin Reyes, as he had done in the quarter-finals, kept his cool with the final kick of the game to clinch victory with the decisive penalty.

Boys Town’s manager Daryl “Blem” Miranda was ecstatic and relieved to finally get over the line.

“I have a very good feeling now. You can see what going on in the camp here. I finally get through. The difference is we really work hard for it throughout and we deserve it. I felt the penalty decision wasn’t good enough but that is the game. The referee decision is final,” he said.

Asked whether he was nervous going into the shootout, Miranda added, “My goalkeeper pull meh out in the shootout. I was still confident. Good kickers and I backing my ‘keeper.”

One of the good kickers he was referring to was his captain who welcomed the opportunity to put the game away.

“Never under pressure. Penalty shootout. Skipper? I have to prove myself. I have to make sure my team sure about me. That is why they choose the skipper to complete the job,” Reyes said.

He applauded the fighting spirit of Athletico to battle back from the early deficit.

“Great fight. It end up a great fight but we keep the composure. I thought we had it after we went up 2-0 but they proved that in football, 90 minutes of football have to play.”

Boys Town got off to a frenetic start from the opening whistle and could have went 1-0 ahead in the first five minutes of play. A neat turn from Reyes in midfield caught Athletico lacking at the back but forward Keron Bethelemy could not take advantage of Reyes’ through pass.

Reyes almost got his name on the scoresheet soon after, blowing past his marker with a quick change of pace but his shot was parried for a corner.

The pressure from Boys Town was unrelenting and the opening goal came soon after. A left-sided corner was swung into the far post where Jamal Creighton bundled the ball into the net.

It was soon 2-0 from a lightning Boys Town counter-attack that started in the Boys Town penalty and ended in the Athletico net. Boys Town goalie, immaculate with his distribution throughout the game, sent it long for Reyes who sent Anslem Jackson clear with a flick-on header. Jackson, with just the ‘keeper to beat, held his nerve to double the advantage. Athletico, despite being outplayed, pulled one back through Nathan Julien. The speedy winger, after missing a gilt-edged chance previously, burst down the left flank and into the box and squeezed a low shot into the far post just before the half.

Athletico looked a much better team in the second period while Boys Town team were a bit cagey and keen to hold on to their lead. Athletico forward Jeron Jones took advantage of some sloppy defending around the penalty area but he was clotheslined as he chested the ball into the penalty area.

The referee immediately pointed to the spot and Tevin Garcia stepped up to make it 2-2.

With both teams tentative to commit bodies forward, penalties were definitely on the cards as time began to run out.

But Athletico had one final say before the whistle with Julien drifting from the right into the box, but his low strike rebounded off the post and the follow-up effort was struck wide.