By Ras WadadaTHE Guyana Defence Force etched its name into Guyana’s football history when they were crowned the first-ever male and female national champions of football last Sunday night.The unprecedented achievement, simultaneously, was fittingly completed on home turf at Camp Ayanganna before a disappointingly poor turnout of fans amid persistent showers.The Army yet again proved their superiority over Fruta Conquerors with a third consecutive victory to capture the inaugural GFF/STAG Elite League Leaders’ prize of $1.5M, while the women turned back the challenge of Paiwomak Warriors of Region Nine to win the first National Women’s Development League title.Women’s Development League Champions celebrate with captain Odessa Romeo and Minister within the Ministry of Indigenous People’s Affairs, Valerie Garrido-Lowe holding the winners’ trophy alongside GFF boss Wayne Forde and team members. (Pics courtesy: Matthew Falloon)The Macushi lasses from the village of Annai in North Rupununi only have themselves to blame, as they squandered numerous opportunities, including a penalty. The 70-minute final was played on wet and slippery conditions that both sides adapted to well on a much smaller pitch.The Army took the lead in the 7th minute when Kendra Thomas cannoned a left- booter, from the vertex of the area on the attacking left, that ended up in the ‘V’ at the far post. Pint-size Aboscie Heywood doubled the score 21 minutes later with a right-footed effort that had more placement than power as it ricocheted off the keeper’s post to her right.Immediately the Warriors went on a sustained attack to reduce the deficit but it remained 2-0 at the halfway mark.Five minutes after the resumption the visitors had a golden chance to narrow the lead, but muffed a penalty kick awarded. Undaunted, they continued to pressure the Army’s defence but met stout and calculative resistance, led by captain Odessa Romeo who was outstanding.Samantha Roberts who displayed sound technical skills had a number of near misses after skilfully making her way into the Army’s box, with her attempts going agonisingly close to the upright or wide. Midfielder Jackie Williams eventually breached Ronette Cort’s citadel in the 56th minute with a well-placed shot from the top of the box.Despite their spirited efforts, Paiwomak had to settle for the runners-up position as captain Romeo defended stubbornly to hold on to a 2-1 win.Earlier, St Ignatius took 3rd place after putting away Fruta Conquerors 3-1, led by a brace from Amanda Cabral (21st and 46th) and one by Sonia Griffith (60th). For the losers Natalie Nedd was on target in the 24th minute.The main event started out at a blistering pace on the wet surface and mistakes were frequently made on both sides as Fruta Conquerors tried to unlock the Army’s defence by being the aggressor in the opening minutes of play...Joined together…Army’s ‘Sheroes’ and Heroes (L to R).Aboscie Heywood and Kendra Thomas (Ladies and Olvis Mitchell and Delroy Fraser (Men)The evergreen Anthony ‘Awo’ Abrams looked threatening, as he made several lateral runs in the area that opened up opportunities which the Tucville-based unit could not make use of, as the Army’s defence soaked up the early pressure. Neither side gave much room in midfield during an evenly contested first half.After the break the search for the go-ahead goal continued then Technical Director Bilaal Nantambu made a double substitution in the 62nd minute. Striker Jeffrey Perreira and midfielder Delroy Ferdinand were replaced by Sherwyn Caesar and Delroy Fraser and the home team looked reenergised as they launched attack after attack.The relentless attacks eventually brought the reward that broke the deadlock with four minutes remaining in regulation time. Captain Eusi Phillips’ pass to Olivis ‘Jim Reeves’ Mitchell in the area was buried by a low right-booter to the far post that left goalkeeper Derek Carter flat-footed at the near post.Substitute Fraser then sealed the victory, one minute into injury time with a beautiful solo effort from the left side that was punctuated with a powerfully struck right-footed shot which curled into the ‘V’ at the far post.The result was no surprise to the smiling Army coach Nantambu who gave credit to Conquerors in his post-game comment: “It ended as was planned. Keep it close and finish it off in the second half, but I must admit they are experienced and seasoned players and so we expected a hard-fought game. I think having played last Friday left them a bit tired, but it was a good game and they were worthy opponents.”The 6-pack Elite teams will next take to the pitch on Sunday with the start of the second round of the STAG Elite League.The unbeaten leaders GDF will take on third-placed Devcon Victoria Kings and bottom side Topp XX tackle 2nd-placed Fruta Conquerors in the opening double-header.
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