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A DAY after the Guam women’s national soccer team opened their East Asian Football Federation East Asian Cup tournament with a victory, the men hoped to follow suit.
Yesterday afternoon at the Leo Palace Resort, Guam took on CNMI in the tournament opener for the men’s division. Despite trailing early in the match, Guam bounced back and notched a 3-1 victory over the neighboring island. Guam captain Jason Cunliffe recorded a hat trick on his way to the team’s win.
In the opening minutes of the game, both teams put on a great showing of teamwork and communication. For the first 10 minutes of the game, Guam and Saipan had slight difficulties trying to get a good read on the other. In the 12th minute of play, Guam’s first shot on goal came from Johanan Romero. However, Romero’s shot would sail just over the outstretched arms of CNMI goalkeeper Daniel Cade Stafford and the crossbar.
A costly error hurt Guam early in the game as Micha Paulino was given a yellow card that awarded CNMI a free kick right outside the penalty box. It was then that Joe Wang Miller converted with a well-executed kick that found the back of the goal, giving CNMI a 1-nil lead. After allowing the goal, Guam remained composed and stuck to the game plan. Later in the 25th minute, Cunliffe squeezed a free kick through the left side of the goal to equalize the game at one apiece.
The final 15 minutes of the first half came to a stalemate, as neither team was able to push the ball through the opposing defense for another score. However, Guam did have a golden opportunity to take their first lead of the game in the 38th minute after Stafford left an open net, but to no avail. The halftime signal was blown with both teams knotted at 1-1.
Both teams came out in the second half hungrier and playing with the urgency of wanting to clinch a victory. Guam’s Christian Scheweizer and Dylan Naputi had their chances in the 53rd and 62nd minutes respectively to put their team ahead. However, excellent defending in the goal box by Stafford prevented any goals. It wasn’t until the 66th minute when the game’s tie was broken. Taking a free kick from 25 yards away, Cunliffe was able to zip one through to give Guam a 2-1 lead.
Although Guam was able to preserve the one goal lead for almost the entire time remaining, the host team added another goal to pad their lead. A handball by CNMI’s Kirk Schuler awarded Guam with a penalty kick in the 89th minute. With their team captain taking the shot, Guam upped their lead to 3-1 and Cunliffe completed his hat trick for the day.
EAFF East Asian Cup Tournament action resumes tomorrow with the women taking the field as CNMI will take on Hong Kong. The Guam men will return to action on Sunday when they take on Macau. Friday’s game will pit Macau taking on CNMI in men’s action.