CNMI nips Beijing Elite

Posted on Aug 26 2019


The CNMI’s John Michael Rojas, left, tries to kick the ball away from Beijing Elite’s Yuanyang Yu during the second half of their game in the Northern Marianas Invitational Football Tournament at the NMI Soccer Training Center in Koblerville last Saturday. (Roselyn B. Monroyo)

The CNMI Boys U18 National Team nosed out the Beijing Elite Core Football Club, 4-3, in an intense opening game in the Northern Marianas Invitational Football Tournament at the NMI Soccer Training Center in Koblerville last Saturday.

Oliver Fajardo hit the dagger, as he soared over taller Beijing Elite players and connected on a header in the 62nd minute off a corner kick. Fajardo’s back-breaking shot came after the Teen Ayuyus failed to make something happen in their first two corner kick attempts. In those two instances, Fajardo jockeyed for position in the penalty area against a Beijing defender, who dwarfed the CNMI player with his towering presence, but the former could not get close to the ball with the visiting team anticipating the leather and kicking it out.

However, third time proved to be the charm for the CNMI crew, as Fajardo continued to loiter around the penalty area and the shortest player on the pitch leapt, catching the defender off guard with the game-winning header.

After Fajardo’s shot, Beijing Elite remained persistent and made repeated attempts to equalize the game anew, but it was either denied by the Teen Ayuyus’ defense nor the visiting team overshot its mark.

Even at the last minute of extra time, Beijing Elite tried to knot the count when Chao Li got away from two CNMI defenders, but his lob went over the goal crossbar.

The CNMI-Beijing Elite tiff was extended for five minutes, as there were several delays in the regulation with players from both teams having second motion every time they collided. Many players were given yellow guards and the match was halted on a couple of occasion to break players off and give those who went down the pitch time to recover or be escorted back to their bench.

CNMI coach Michiteru Mita acknowledged that it was indeed a highly physical game and he was pleased that his players hung tough in the end.

“Both teams wanted to win, so you expect that kind of game. So, I am happy that our boys were able to control themselves and played mentally strong. This kind of game was a good experience for our players because they learned why it’s important to keep your focus in the match and not rush things,” said Mita.

Besides Fajardo, three other CNMI players scored in their close win over Beijing Elite. Taka Borja hit the board in the eighth minute, while John Michael Rojas and Joshua De Leon delivered for the Teen Ayuyus in the 26th and 43rd minute, respectively.

Yifan Zhang led Beijing Core with his goals in the 38th and 39th minute, while Zhenxing Wang also made it to the board in the 60th off a penalty kick.

Despite the loss, Beijing Core was proud of its debut match.

Midfielder Ye Xiao, through an interpreter, said their players are in their 40s and to play against a U18 team and do well is already an achievement. They believed they gave the Teen Ayuyus a run for their money. Xiao added that playing against a national team, they expected nothing but a very tough opposition and the home squad showed them that.

Meanwhile, the M-League All-Stars also eked out a close victory over Beijing 97 Return United Football Club in the second match last Saturday, 3-2.

Martin Jambor drilled a pair of goals for the M-League All-Stars, while Daniel Agulto recorded the other goal for the selection. Hongpeng Li and Xiong Zhe Li posted the two goals for Beijing 97 Return.

After the visiting teams dropped their opener, they returned to the NMISTC last night and played in the second game. In the first match, it was the CNMI U18 versus the M-League All-Stars.

The four-team tournament will conclude tonight with the CNMI U18 taking on Beijing 87 at 5pm and the M-League All-Stars battling Beijing Elite at 7pm.

CNMI Boys U18 National Team and Beijing Elite Core Football Club players trade high-fives after the opening game in the Northern Marianas Invitational Football Tournament last the NMI Soccer Training Center in Koblerville. (Roselyn B. Monroyo)

Roselyn Monroyo | Reporter
Roselyn Monroyo is the sports reporter of Saipan Tribune. She has been covering sports competitions for more than two decades. She is a basketball fan and learned to write baseball and football stories when she came to Saipan in 2005.

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