FC Matata Coach Hippolyte Medjibe Mekourou recorded his sixth win of the campaign in a ten-goal thriller at South Gwinnett Stadium on Sunday afternoon. A brace from Wilfried Tchoupa was not enough to save coach Felipe Lobelo’s Club ATLetic from facing their fourth defeat and staring down the barrel of relegation.
The league leaders went behind 1-0 through a second minute penalty kick by Tchoupa. Lionel Touroude made it 1-1 six minutes later. Touroude collected a well weighted pass from second place leading goal scorer Jaden Khamis, he then blew past Ady Niang and Gary Shorrow as easy as knife through butter before bamboozling the keeper to finish from an acute angle. Euclid would be as proud as a peacock to see how Touroude measured that angle with such precision.
Matata finished last season in 4th position and is determined to win the division title this season. They showed the traveling fans exactly what they are about in the 14th minute, when the quick-thinking Jerry Desdunes sharply sent Touroude on his way with a quickly taken free kick after the goalkeeper Sebastian Farias was ruled to have handled the ball outside the 18-yard box. A call that was vehemently argued by the Club ATLetic officials on the sideline.
Touroude latched on to the end of the pass with a sweet finish to make it 2-1 to Matata. Club ATLetic now had a mountain to climb both in the game and to get out of the doghouse at the bottom of the table. The adage of lightening will not strike the same place twice was thrown hastily through the window when Santy Mokgoatsana was brought down clumsily by Matata keeper, David Magala for the second straight penalty. You can bet your house on Tchoupa to score a penalty as he makes scoring them a habit. He firmly stroked home the resulting spot kick to make it 2-2 ten minutes before the half.
Club ATLetic sat out last year’s tournament due to the pandemic, as their coach, a medical doctor by profession, worked fervently to combat the Coronavirus. Just how Dr. Lobelo’s concerted efforts has help to restore normalcy in society the fans are expecting him to wield his magic wand to help save ATLetic from being relegated this season.
The jubilant supporters scurried to the side rails in a euphoric moment in the 44th minute when Edgar Garcia turned home a long-range effort from Tolulope Afolabi. However, the noise quickly died when the assistant referee signaled off-side. Many thought it was a dubious call and vented their anger and frustration at the decision. With both teams heading down the tunnel locked at 2-2, there was still all to play for in the second half.
Matata started the second half like a house on fire creating several clear-cut chances. In the 52nd minute Desdunes magical touches got him swiftly past three defenders before laying it off to the quiet Jaden Khamis. Khamis returned the pass to Desdunes who tried to elude the onrushing defender. The ball then bounced auspiciously in his path behind the last line of defense where he could have taken the shot, but instead played it nicely to Touroude to score exquisitely for his third of the afternoon.
At 3-2 up Matata decided to go for the kill signaling their intent on making their claim on the coveted division title. In the 54th minute Matata started applying a little more pressure on the accelerator pressing higher up the pitch. This pressure paid dividends when defender Lima Nuvala lost the ball while dribbling out to Khamis who smartly played in Desdunes to make it 4-2.
Matata was a sight to behold when they are in the mood reminding one of that Barcelona Tika-Taka style passing, but Club ATLetic has the heart of a lion and refused to play dead. In 78th minute they pulled within a goal after Tchoupa unselfishly released Eddie Robinson who drove a ferocious shot pass the hapless Matata goalkeeper. With a little under a quarter of an hour plus added time coach Mekourou could be seen sitting nervously beside his team bench while coach Lobelo frantically urged his players to find the equalizer.
To get the equalizing goal Club ATLetic was caught out of position. With Club pressing far up the pitch in search of that equalizer, Matata’s Desdunes used his pace and agility to get by the ATLetic defense to sweep home his second goal of the afternoon in the 87th minute.
Before the smoke could clear it was 5-4, as ATLetic’s Will Knight decided to add a twist to the tale. With the golden boot race so evenly poised with Seas Jamaica’s Rajay Wright on 13 and Matata’s Jaden Khamis on 12, Touroude had other plans as he scored his fourth goal of the afternoon and his 12th for the season in the second minute of time added on. The final whistle was greeted with relief on Matata’s bench, Mekourou just about managing a smile as he made his way from the dugout. Despite the crazy finish at South Gwinette Park, Club ATLetico are still within a chance of avoiding relegation and getting a division playoff spot.
Coach Mekourou: “We are pleased how his team dug deep to get out of a difficult moment. Our team loves the second half however we do not want to wait until second half to close games out we want to win it from first half”.
Coach Lebelo: “We know today’s game would have been a tough one and we were right in it but it’s difficult to go power to power with a team like Matata with such depth and power. We had some questionable calls, but such is the game”.
Man Of The Match: Lionel Touroude “We are in first place and we are trying to win all our games. The Golden Boot award is not on my mind it doesn’t matter who scores, I just want to win and help the team win trophies”.