Club Tropicana started the new season off in fine style with a nail-biting, nerve-jangling end to end 5-4 victory over Wanchai Spartans on Saturday evening at the valley. In a sometimes fiery yet fair and well contested game, Sparts went in at half time two nil up thanks to a brace from Oli Baijings, the second with the last kick of the first half. Tropics though heeded the call from Gaffa McGleenon’s half-time team talk to start strong and believe the win was still possible. Three goals in twenty minutes turned the game on its head. First, substitute Thomas Bombardieri pulled the ball back for Kyle Wagner to fire home with his left foot. Next, 6 ft 5-inch centre back Paul ‘Nijinsky’ Ryding showed the skills of said ballerina to pirouette a shot that dribbled over the line just out of the reach of the despairing Sparts keeper. Then, Theo De Vies rose like a salmon to thunder home a header from a Steve Cairns corner to complete the turnaround. However, Spartans were not done themselves and they equalized with a majestic Ali Thompson free kick then went 4-3 up with Baijings getting his hat-trick with a sweet strike from distance. Tropics though kept fighting and duly got back on level terms as Nico Staffieiri fired home from the edge of the area in what felt like the last goal of the game. Guru Navaldeep had other ideas though, smashing the ball into the top corner from fully 40 yards to send the crowd wild and give Tropics all three points.
There was another close game to kick the season off on Friday night where Scottish Stags ousted DBFC by the odd goal in five. In a full on, entertaining game, Stags went ahead after the ball was adjudged to have crossed the line after stand in DB keeper could only parry a shot- Miles Winter credited with the goal. DB equalized through Nick Light but another scrappy one from a corner saw Stags re-take the lead via the boot of J Hackett. Soon after the interval, DB were back on level terms again thanks to Awal Mahama, but P Harrod got the winner for Scottish after the DB defence failed to clear a long ball. Perennial under achievers J-Leaguers may sense that this is their year as they flew out the traps to sit top of the table, after a 4-1 rout of Soho Spartans. JL went one up at HT thanks to Keiichi Sekino, but a sublime Jareth Ashbrook free kick got Sparts level. Pushing for the win though, Soho were undone after the second water break as the Japanese high press paid dividends to edge in front. In the heat, they scored another two with Sekino getting his second while Daichi Okamoto also got on the scoresheet twice.
Tempers flared in the two of the three remaining games of round one with no less than 4 red cards in the matches between Krauts v Fellas and Cavs v Harps. At the valley, Goodfellas shaded a close encounter 1-0 thanks to Sam Millar’s strike in a game of very few clear-cut chances. Despite a lot of possession, Krauts didn’t create much until the final third, but were let down by a reckless moment that saw them reduced to 10 men and with it, their chance of securing a point was gone. Remarkably, Irish Harps were shown no less than three red cards in their game against KCC Cavs as their adrenaline for the new season boiled over. Despite defending most of the second half with 9 men, they were able to hold out at 1-1 until the last 3 minutes when KCC eventually scored twice to seal a 3-1 win. Gabriel Ho had put KCC 1 up from the spot, but Luke Moynah gave the 9 men Harps a lifeline. However, a second from Gabriel and another from Michael Ho earned three points while the Irish finished with 8 men.
In the final game to round up, it was another goal fest between division one new boys Scottish Eagles and grateful to be given a div 1 lifeline after USRC Gunners folded- Corinthians! Cors started well and raced into a two-goal lead through Seb D’Aulerio and Giacomo Lafante, but Eagles pegged them back through George Fenwick. Max Brackenbury made it three, Eagles made it 3-2 and then Mario Lengalla added Cors fourth in a compelling six goal first half! Unfortunately for Cors, they ran out of steam in the second half and the tiring legs led to some defensive errors which Eagles capitalised upon. George Fenwick ended up with two and there was also a goal apiece for Jack Boardman and Brent Sanson. If the games continue to provide action like this, with 32 goals being scored- it could be a cracking season ahead.