Matchday Twenty-One Review
In the penultimate weekend of the Caribbean Mega League we really did see it all. As third place qualified for the World Mega Shield, two more clubs at the bottom end joined the dreaded Relegation Playoff, one chairman announced that his manager would leave at the end of the season and the team at the top of the pile changed hands again at undoubtedly one of the most crucial points of the season. We saw three teams win by three goals or more and there were four goals in the final ten minutes across six massively important games during Matchday Twenty-One.
With the three-horse race known as the CML showdown coming towards its end, all eyes were facing the top trio who all started the day within touching distance of each other. Table toppers Moko-Jumbies FC and third place Vodou People were massive favourites in their games whilst Jamrock Juniors had a tough task ahead of them against the league’s in-form team, Ajax Oranjestad. Whilst Jamtastic played through a tightly fought goalless first-half, in Haiti there were goals to write home about and after Roberto Louima finally scored his first goal in his nineteenth outing, visiting strugglers Redonda Rockys hit back through their top goalscorer Randolph Burton meaning that as the Kitt Men had got off the mark on the stroke of half-time against Bermuda Tempest they would go into the break two points clear of Jamrock and four ahead of Prodigy- and whilst the second forty-five in Bermuda and Haiti would see no more goals, there were a staggering four to come at ArenArubA. Almost an hour of nail biting action had gone into the match in Oranjestad before the opening goal and it was Newton Sterling who jumped highest in the box to score the scruffiest of his eleven goals so far this season. Daz Knapton now had a choice to make; sit and defend a 1-0 lead which wasn’t quite enough to leapfrog Moko-Jumbies’ slightly superior goal difference, or go for broke against a team who had only lost one in seven. Into the last twenty minutes the game was still very close and although Oranje Boys weren’t really threatening in terms of goals they are the sort of team that can pounce at any time. Thankfully for Jamtastic though it was they who would be the ones pouncing as Upston Edwards headed home to make it 2-0 before left-back Kareem Manning and then substitute Dean Andre Thomas added to a magnificent 4-0 win that saw the Jamaican side move into the lead.
Just below the excitement of the top three, fourth place Republican Rabbits needed to win both games to stay in contention for the title, but a staggering 3-0 defeat against Spicy Doves means that they will instead face a nervy final match against Vodou People in which a fourth straight defeat could see them fall out of the top four having led the way in the league for over a third of the campaign. The other big winners of the weekend were Suriname Sharks, who shocked few people as being the latest team to roll over Dominica Dominoes, meanwhile in Barbados Bajan Boppers were confined to the relegation playoff alongside Bermuda Tempest after defeat at home against Limbo Leopards.
The top two, who are still level on points, will play host in Matchday Twenty-Two as Jamrock Juniors take on Spicy Doves and Moko-Jumbies FC play Suriname Sharks. Neither of the visiting side will be pushovers and both have a chance of sneaking into the top four depending on results elsewhere. Over in the Dominican Republic, the Rabbits take on rivals Vodou People, whilst Limbo Leopards will be ready to overtake if they can win at Redonda Rockys. At the bottom of the table, Bajan Boppers and Bermuda Tempest will do battle and finally Dominica Dominoes are expected to end their torrid season with another defeat, this time to Ajax Oranjestad.