by MARLEY LEACOCK
WEYMOUTH WALES completed the league and cup double in the most dramatic of fashions, after Akeem Maloney rose in the final seconds of extra-time to head his side to knock-out football glory with a 1-0 victory over Paradise in the Stag Beer Champions Cup final.
The game needed extra-time after neither side could break the deadlock during the allotted 90 minutes at the Wildey AstroTurf, after a combination of brilliant goalkeeping and some erratic finishing.
Wales were the quicker out of the blocks and dominated much of the first-half proceedings. The defending champions’ early dominance translated into arguably the best opportunity of the first half after another slick move proved too good for the Paradise defence.
A lovely ball over the top from Arantees Lawrence found Hadan Holligan in space down the right. Holligan then drove into the area and shifted back onto his right, before squaring a pinpoint pass back across the face of goal for Tristan ‘Fishy’ Parris.
Parris was unable to sort his feet out in time, however, and only succeeded in dragging his effort wide from six yards out, subsequently missing the first real gilt-edged chance of the final, to the audible dismay of the Wales supporters.
Paradise emerged after the interval a refocused bunch and went on to firmly assert their will on the second half, by fashioning numerous opportunities on the break.
One such chance fell at the boots of Ackeel Applewhaite, after an attack was worked down the right to find the impressive Najee Holder. Holder took a quick glance up, before curling a precise pass into the area to match the run of Applewhaite.
Kept it out
Applewhaite, to his credit, attempted to beat Wales’ custodian Omari Eastmond first time with his effort, but the keeper anticipated well and quickly smothered the effort to prevent a certain goal for Paradise.
By the time extra-time had arrived, Armando Lashley had seen his header saved from point-blank range by Eastmond while Elijah Downey held his head in agony as his follow-up effort crashed off the post.
Paradise’s missed opportunities were beginning to mount, and it only seemed like a matter of time before their profligate finishing would come back to haunt them, and it did.
Wales won a corner with seconds remaining, as the large crowd seemed prepared for the lottery of a penalty shoot-out.
Centre back Maloney visibly signalled to the Wales technical area for permission to join the crowded penalty area in search of a winner. His request was belatedly sanctioned.
The resulting corner was then swung over from the right, and, ironically, Maloney was on hand to rise highest and power a header home in the dying seconds of the game, to spark manic celebrations among Wales’ fans and on the touchline.
The header clinched a third trophy in two seasons for Wales, who did as champions do and simply found a way to win, clinching their seventh double crown.
Paradise, on the other hand, will still be wondering how different the narrative might have been, had they come with their shooting boots in the second half.
Meanwhile, in the preceding third-place play-off, the Barbados Soccer Academy (BSA) defeated Notre Dame 2-1.
Goals from Kemar Watson and Tre Hinds in the 36th and 57th minutes respectively gave the young Academy side a comforable two-goal lead before Armande Griffith’s consolation strike for the Dames in the 92nd minute.