ST. JOHN’s, Antigua and Barbuda. – Antigua Barracuda FC sunk the visiting Los Angeles Blues 3-0 on Sunday night behind two goals from Ranja Christian in the 70th and 83rd minutes and a superb solo effort from Tamarley “Ziggy” Thomas. The Blues were visibly tired after putting in a spirited effort in the 2-1 loss to Wilmington just two days prior and rarely threatened the goal in front of a small but vocal crowd at Antigua’s Sticky Wicket Stadium.
The first half was largely a quiet, uneventful affair with only goalie Keita Decastro having to rush off his line once to clear in front of the approaching Blues attack. Chukwudi Chijundu started up top for the visitors, who were without former Cudas striker Peter Byers, who had scored in each of the previous two meetings between the two teams. Byers was far from the only notable absence from the Los Angeles lineup, however, as a measly two bench players made for a tough night for Head Coach Charlie Naimo’s men.
Meanwhile, after employing Christian as a central defender in the recent matches at Los Angeles, Antigua Barracuda FC started with him in that role in anticipation of Byers’ power and speed up front. That quickly changed, as the 33-year-old switched with captain George Dublin and occupied the right fullback position from that point forward.
On resumption of play in the second half, another change was made by Cudas Head Coach Tom Curtis, Christian being placed in his more familiar role up front, while Cowin Mathurin was substituted and Roy Gregory slotted in at right back. It proved to be the turning point as the home team took control of the possession in search of an opening.
The pressure finally paid off on a corner kick taken by Randolph Burton, as an emphatic header at the back post by Ranja Christian broke the tie. Then, following a spell of good play by both teams, an Antigua fast break saw Stefan Smith turn his defender and slot the ball perfectly into the path of Christian, who completed his brace with a low strike to the right of goalkeeper Oscar Duatt.
The goal served as a knockout punch to the Blues, as it was obvious they lacked the energy for a grand comeback. Instead, the Cudas would add a third late in the game. Defending a corner, Orlando Mitchum provided the pass to Tamarley Thomas on the edge of his own 18-yard box. Racing up the field, Thomas evaded four opposing players before finally turning and twisting defender Nelson Akwari and powering home a low, curling shot from the edge of the penalty area.
The win over Los Angeles was the Cudas’ final match of the 2011 USL PRO campaign. Meanwhile, the Blues will fight for playoff positioning as well as a crucial confidence boost ahead of the postseason when they face the visiting Richmond Kickers in back-to-back home games this coming Friday, August 12, and Sunday, August 14. Kickoff for Friday’s game at Titan Stadium on the campus of Cal State Fullerton is at 7.30 p.m. PST.