Benfica drive 'dagger' into Sporting Central
Richard Bryan, Gleaner Writer
Struggling newcomers Benfica added a crucial point and spoiled Sporting Central Academy's ambitions to hold on to their top-six place in the Digicel Premier League after the two ended 1-1 at Brancourt on Sunday.
Both teams have found it difficult in this third round, with Sporting gaining four points - all draws - from six games, to move to 36. Benfica inched to 28, just two points ahead of bottom-place St Georges, but more important, still within a win of getting past Humble Lions and Village United, who are both locked on 30 points.
New signing, Keith Kelly, scored his first goal in the 79th minute for Sporting Central after coming on as a substitute.
However, Damion James put a dagger in the hearts of the Sporting fans, levelling in the 84th minute with one of the few chances created by his team.
Benfica's camp was happier and Duckie was so gutted, he waited some time before he could speak to the media.
Time to recover
When he finally did, he said: "It (draw) was like a dagger; I had to take time to recover. I know the third round was harder than the second, and most teams are not going to go down that easily, but we were so dismal, and that showed in the scoreline."
He was, however, heartened by the attitude and performance of Kelly.
Sporting completely dominated the first half, but had a rough time converting.
It was frustration for their fans from the first minute when François Swaby was denied a chance to add to his nine goals tallied from as far back as the ninth game in the previous round. On one occasion, he actually got Gregory Lewis' cross in the back of the net, but that was ruled offside.
His strike partner, Onike Ford, then began a bad pattern of missing goals, failing to convert what could be considered 'sitters', although he was probably unlucky after heading one on to the goalpost.
Sporting's goal came at the 65th minute after Benfica were reduced to 10 men when Odane Ottey was red-carded for a second bookable offence.
The goal came from the unlikely source of Kelly, who began his stint with Sporting, coming on as a substitute in the previous game against Arnett Gardens, which incidentally, they lost 2-0.
It wasn't a beautiful strike, as he merely poked in a four-yard rebound off goalkeeper Donovan Hynes, but the fans and especially his coach, Donovan Duckie, were extremely glad.
The more grateful strike was reserved for Benfica, which defended stoutly, although on occasions, Gregory Tape posed problems with dribbles down the flank. As Sporting pressed unsuccessfully, they were caught on the counter by Tape, but he needed help as well as good fortune when James did well to tap in after the gift of a deflection.
Teams P W D L GF-GA GD Pts
Tivoli 28 15 6 7 38 22 16 51
B Town 28 13 8 7 27 22 5 47
Portmore 28 12 10 6 27 17 10 46
H View 28 13 6 9 31 20 11 45
W'house28 12 8 8 34 24 10 44
Reno 28 9 9 103026436
Sporting 28 9 9 10 28 24 4 36
Arnett 28 8 12 8 21 24 -3 36
H Lions 28 7 9 12 18 23 -5 30
Village 28 7 9 12 26 37 -11 30
Benfica 28 7 7 14 25 49 -24 28
Georges 28 7 5 16 19-36 -1726