FC Matata still “have their heads high like the National flag during the playing of the national anthem” after a dramatic 3-2 win over defending champions Atletico Atlanta as they propelled to within 2 points of leaders LSA Limeño.
Matata came from behind to claim victory in a box office blockbuster at the South Gwinnett Park. Hattrick hero Jaden Khamis scored three unanswered goals to help Matata beat Atletico Atlanta in an epic 5 goal thriller.
“Hakuna Matata” which means “there are no troubles” must have been the song that was played in the dressing room at half time. It was the third win for the season – and their second come from behind win for Matata under coach Hippolyt Emekourou.
While the result extended a miserable run for Atletico Atlanta, who since the absence of striker Akini James, captain Jeffery Otoo and influential Belize national team captain Deon McCauley they have taken seven points from five games and slid down the table into 4th spot, with the immediate three clubs below them having games in hand.
Atletico raced into a 2-0 lead within 22 minutes. Derrick Boateng open the scoring from the penalty spot after Jared Daniel was brought down in the box by Bismark Danson. The Matata defense started pointing fingers at each other as their defense was cut wide open like a tin of beans by shear pace from Daniel.
Before the dust could settle between the defenders, they were put to the sword again. Garcia Esteban collected a well weighted pass from Victor Profit and got by Mohamed Tambadu effortlessly. He then whipped an exquisite pass to Mohamed Lamin Gerewou who passed the ball expertly into the back of the net to make it 2-0. With his back against the wall so early in the first half Coach Emekourou was forced to make an emergency change bringing on his secret weapon Lionel Touroude in the 27th minute.
It was clear almost from the outset that things would not be straightforward for Matata against a team that is the current champions. Trailing 2-0 could have been 3-0 or 4-0 if it were not for some stout defending and some excellent goalkeeping. Having spent most of the game in his dug-out, legs stretched out and arms folded, the Matata boss finally came out to voice an opinion as his side, trailing and looking edgy, failed to execute what their manager felt was a routine clearance. Emekourou bellowing could be heard from the media seats. The instruction was clear – get the ball away from our goal quickly.
In the 32nd minute Jared Daniel blistering pace proved how he can be a menace to defenders as he rushed pass three defenders and found himself one and one with goalkeeper Daniel Perez who clawed the ball out of the evening sky as Daniel tried an audacious dink. Matata seemed galvanized by that Perez save and they defended stubbornly to ensure the deficit did not get any worst.
It is said that players win, and coaches lose games but this time it was the coach who came up champs making some tactical changes and giving his team that extra motivation during the interval. The home side created a flurry of chances at the start of the second half and was rewarded in the 48th minute when Minani Elia was first to a loose ball in Atlanta’s defensive quarter and slipped a ball to Khamis who opens his body to slot home calmly. That goal clearly set the home fans on their feet cheering with every attacking intent of their beloved team.
Eight minutes after the hour mark Matata’s star man Jerry Desdunes picked up a pass in the middle of the park and played a sumptuous ball to set up Khamis who punished the defending champions for their wastefulness when he drilled home a low shot to level out things.
The momentum quickly swung in the home team’s favor as they pressed for the winner. Atletico was stunned and could not find an answer to Matata as they stormed a comeback. Daniel got a glorious opportunity in the 72nd minutes to lift the daunting spirits of the traveling supporters, but he scuffed his shot wide. Six minutes later it was Matata on the prowl again this time Dieu Merci Namilapo ferocious shot from 25 yards peeled off a bit of paint off the post before being cleared by defender Michel Hurtado to safety.
If Khamis’s goal was a big surprise to the home fans, they were stunned four minutes from time when Matata swept forward from a Atletico’s corner. Namilapo sent Khamis on his way with a long pass from inside his own area. Twinkle toes Khamis drove forward with real intent, his mesmeric step overs froze Profit before his shot found the top right corner from the edge of the area.
FC Matata Coach Hippolyt Emekourou- “Today’s game was a tough one. We were set back by those two early goals, but I am so proud of the boys mentality on how they fought back. The only two disappointing moments for me were the two quick goals we conceded when we did not look like we were going to concede. Defending against speedy players has been one of our few strengths this season and we conceded two today. Overall, it was a fantastic victory. It was the number of chances we created which pleased me most. I have not seen us create that many chances. A win was particularly important at this moment in time. The attitude, work-rate and determination of the players, that’s brought us a big, big victory.”
Atletico Atlanta Coach Joao Garcia- “We played better the first half they played better the second half they won the game 3-2. We are national champions we did not rest, and the boys needed rest so I rested seven starters today however we could have won the game from first half by going 4 goals up, but we switched off and that’s what happen when you switch off. Its hard to stay at the top especially when you do not have any off season. We will see them in the play-offs hopefully”.
Jaden Khamis Matata FC, Hattrick hero: “ I thought the team came back good, first half behind 2-0 our heads were down but I told them second half was a new start, a new game and they lift their heads up and we got the win. For the third goal I said to myself I must stay calm because this is the best opportunity to win the match, I may not get another one”.