Atlanta Elephant FC eased to a 3-1 victory over Seas Jamaica All Stars on Sunday to keep alive their hopes of challenging for the division title in their first season in the UPSL.
The home team raced into a comfortable lead inside 25 minutes thanks to a first half strike by Moustapha Dante. Seas Jamaica equalized in the 65th minute courtesy of debutante and former Lacovia High School Dacosta Cup Super star Rajay Wright. The lead was extended in the second half with a wonder strike from captain Alpha Balde in the 71st minute, before substitute Franck Dibi put the game out of reach with an equally as good strike in the 74th minute.
Seas Jamaica 2 points off the bottom of the table was desperate for three points in last Sunday’s game but found goals hard to come by after losing their lethal striker and Golden Boot winner, Akinni James. The loss of some key defenders from last season had them finding it equally as difficult to shut out teams with a porous back four. On the other hand, Elephants FC making a serious surge to the top after losing only once from four games and now sits comfortable in second despite playing a game more than leaders LSA Limeño.
Seas Jamaica started the game nicely and was out of the blocks the quicker and should have taken the lead after a few early chances. Elephants FC took some time to get into gear, but when they did, they were amazing moving the ball in a tic-a-tac fashion across the lush green park of South Gwinnett Stadium.
Seas Jamaica got off the hook in the 16th minute after nice build up play found Mohamed Diallo who finished methodically but to his dismay the assistant referee flagged him for half side. Seas did not make use of their early exchanges and were now dithering. A minute later Elephants were again knocking loudly at the door of Seas. Former St. George’s College stand out goalkeeper Hakeem Francis brought off an acrobatic save to deny Elephants and Diallo the opening goal.
Still 0-0 at this point and Atlanta Elephants with the better of chances but Seas Jamaica were not playing poorly by any stretch of imagination. As it was written “knock and it shall open unto thee.” That was the case in the 25th minute when Balde capitalized on a poor back pass from the shaky Seas Jamaica defense to slip through Dante for the opener. The jubilant Elephants’ spectators were happy to see a goal after a decent exchange from both teams. Elephants could have extended their lead, but poor shooting continued to haunt them. Seas Jamaica were a bit unfortunate not to have at least equalized as the half ended 1-0 to Elephants.
Atlanta Elephants had been brilliant throughout the first half but they let the visitors back into the match 20 minutes after the break. Seas’ Rayjay Wright found the net after collecting an incandescent pass from his strike partner Cameron Grassmyer to finish from a tight angle.
With current champions Atletico Atlanta dropping points in a Friday evening blockbuster against Club ATLetic in a 1-1 tie, it was important Elephants kept pace at the top of the table. With that in the back of their minds, Elephants pressed for the go-ahead goal and got their just reward in the 71st minute. Balde created a first-time superlative strike from 40 yards, the recipient of yet another poor clearance from Seas Jamaica Left Back Ryan Pugh.
Substitute Dibi showed the coach how much of an impact he can be whenever giving the chance. The spectators were still in awe over Balde’s goal but Dibi must be saying ‘anything you can do I can do it better’. In minute 74 he pulled the trigger from 35 yards and let fly a blinder that left goaltender Francis clutching at thin air to make it 3-1. Seas Coach David Largie was furious on the touch line and would have laced up his boots and roll back the years if he could in a bid to help his struggling team.
Both teams made some changes for the duration of the game though Seas where a little thin on substitution due to the absence of vital players. Elephants’ goalkeeper, Dante will hope to continue his impressive form in front of goal when they take on Club ATLetic in their next league game on April 17. Dante remains a key member of the Elephants and a promising young player for the future.
Atlanta Elephants FC Coach, Zana “Ahmed” Soro
“It is important because we started the game badly. I was pleased to see the team not nervous when they did not score earlier against Seas in the first half. We tried to continue believing in what we do. In the second half we improved, with better movement, and played the ball into space and into feet and players marked man-to-man. It would be more pleasing if we kept a clean sheet.”
Seas Jamaica All Stars Coach, David Largie
“I don’t know how we lost the game, let alone 3-1. You have got to put away your chances. The crowd were just about to turn and then we make it easy for them with two goals in 4 minutes and they do not have to worry about a system or anything. I was more pleased than I was against FC Matata. We are hanging in there. I cannot fault them for effort. We have not got enough in the squad; we need two or three extras. It’s a long season and we need to help some of the lads that need a breather now and then.”