All that’s good about Cayman Islands football was evident at the North Side Playing Field on Sunday in an epic encounter between two previously unbeaten teams.
Although Sunset had drawn five of its eight games, it was confident of victory against a Latinos side bristling to prove its unbeaten streak was not a fluke.
The game that emerged certainly lived to up expectations, which deserved the appreciation of a far bigger crowd than the sparse numbers there at the start.
Sunset is comprised mostly of Brits and the mid-afternoon heat affected them more.
Latinos settled quickly and Jose Luis Bush’s 20-yard shot was comfortably parried over by Milivoj Djordjic in the second minute. Djordjic was the busiest man on the field in the first half, as Latinos dominated with quick exchanges, engineered mostly from midfield by Marshall Forbes who had another excellent game before returning to college in the United States the day after.
Bush was in the thick of it again soon after as he made a good run on the left before passing inside for Victor Chicas, who hit it just over. Edgar Andino seized on a Djordjic clearance when he was way out of his goal and the first-time shot from 40 yards was accurate but safely collected by the keeper who had scrambled back.
Sunset was restricted to snatching at half chances by the quicker and better organised Latinos. Dwight Moxam put Ronan Guilfoyle through but his tame shot didn’t trouble Alexi Reve.
After a period of dominance, Latinos finally netted. Forbes’ through ball to Bush was deftly steered past Djordjic in the 35th minute. Latinos must have wondered when its breakthrough was coming. Bush had an excellent game and was always dangerous.
The razor-sharp striker worked well with Alexis Espinal soon after and much to Sunset’s relief, lack of communication meant that Djordjic was able to easily pick up.
Latinos’ Cesar Fajardo was guilty of one of the misses of the season when the ball bounced perfectly for him in a goalmouth scramble and from five yards he blasted over.
Latinos should have been three or four up by half time as Sunset – sponsored by Triple Crown – looked as if it had partied in the sponsor’s pub all night.
Sunset manager Paul Macey was grateful at the break that his team was only one down and instead of making wholesale changes, tweaked the format to 4-5-1 and advised his team to ignore its first half performance and just go out and show its real ability.
With Moxam working tirelessly up front, the team found its shape and improved dramatically.
Nevertheless, Latinos went two up, against the run of play when, from a series of passes starting on the right, Espinal smashed home from virtually the goal line in the 54th minute. Sunset remonstrated with the officials for offside but no joy.
From a free kick just outside the Sunset box, Chicas and Bush passed cleverly between themselves and Chicas fired just over as he rounded the wall.
By now Sunset was arguing amongst itself furiously.
At least it was showing the passion, which was missing in the first session. Sunset’s centre back Tom Elliot and then Moxam had attempts on goal before James Green collected on the left and with Latino defenders bearing down on him he kept a cool head to fire a low shot in. That was in the 73rd minute and as Sunset pressed for the equalizer, the inevitable killer breakaway happened.
Bush tore down the left and as Djordjic advanced his sideways pass fell to Forbes to tap into an empty net in the 78th minute.
Sunset was not finished though; it rallied and went close a couple of times before Green hit his second as injury time started. It was the right result but had Sunset began as it finished the outcome may have been different.
Macey said: ‘First half we were poor but second half we played really well and were worth a point. Four o’clock kick off for us is hard because of the heat. But we just weren’t playing well early on. We thought the second goal was miles offside, but what can we do? Latinos were a good side but second half we by far matched them and overall deserved a draw.’
Latinos manager Juan Rivers said: ‘I feel great because no matter how you win, it’s still a win. East End are top of the league but they’ve played one game more. They’re moaning about our second goal but I am not the ref. It happens in football. When we played Elite in the cup, we scored one beautiful goal but the ref said it was no goal. We lost and had to accept it.
‘We’ve lost Marshall Forbes but for the past three seasons we’ve never had him for the whole season. We still have some good players to replace him.’
Alexi Reve, Marshall Forbes, David Arch, Victor Chicas, Alfredo Challenger, Cesar Fajardo, Edgar Andino, Jose Luis Bush, Mitchell Grant, Allan Montoya, Romel Raudales. Subs: Wilmer Ayala, George Belcher, Alexis Espinal, Marlon Moore, Jose Nunez, Dennis Smith
Milivoj Djordjic, Declan Cassidy, Tom Elliot, Junior Fisher, Ronan Guilfoyle, Guillaume Hammersley, Rob Holmes, Simon Jenkinson, Dwight Moxam, Gareth Thacker, Martin Waud. Subs: Neil Purton, Stefan Kormos, Sam Houston, James Green, Andrew Bellfield, Des Chisholm