San Juan Jabloteh and Dominican Republic outfit Cibao FC will contest the final of the 2017 Caribbean Football Union (CFU) Club Championship from 8pm on Sunday after both sides progressed from the final round in Trinidad as group winners.
The new Caribbean champions will also secure the region's automatic spot at next year's newly re-formatted Concacaf Champions League which begins in February.
Jabloteh, who grabbed first half goals through Adrian Reid and Vurlon Mills, were held to a late 2-2 comeback draw by Jamaica powerhouse Portmore United before 10-men Central, the two-time holders, were edged 1-0 by, arguably the toughest side of the finals, Cibao, on Thursday—in the final double-header of group action.
Patrick Soko scored the decisive Cibao item eight minutes into the second half after Central, who were hoping to create history by becoming three-time consecutive Caribbean champions, lost midfielder Nathaniel Garcia to a second yellow card a minute from the break at the Hasely Crawford Stadium.
The result lifted Cibao (1-1-0; 4 points) ahead of Central (1-0-1; 3 points) to take Group A which also has Antigua & Barbuda side Grenades FC (0-1-1; 1 point), while Jabloteh (1-1-0; 4 points), with the point earned, cemented their place at the top of Group B, ahead of Portmore (1-1-0; 4 points) on a goal difference while Haiti's Racing FC (0-0-2; 0 point) are bottom.
Central and Portmore will contest the third-place match on Sunday from 5pm at the Hasely Crawford Stadium which will be followed by the CFU Club Championship final.
Central, Portmore and the Caribbean's runners-up -- as the region's second, third and fourth-placed teams -- will join 13 Central American teams in the newly launched Concacaf League which begins in August, in which the overall champions will also qualify for next season's Concacaf Champions League.
Jabloteh, who reached the CFU Club Championship finals as the best team of the first round group play earlier this year, had looked on their way for a fifth straight win of the campaign after leading 2-0 at the break.
Reid, one of three – team captain Damian Williams and Keithy Simpson the others – former Portmore players in the Jabloteh line-up, fired the San Juan Kings ahead from the penalty spot in the 34th minute after defender Kareem Manning bundled Mills to ground in a desperate attempt to clear a dangerous Nathan Lewis cross.
The Jabloteh penalty specialist left Portmore goalkeeper Shaven Sean Paul anchored to the ground as the ball entered the right bottom corner.
Mills then made it two nil four minutes from the half with a glancing header to beat Paul off a right side Williams’ free kick.
Sue Lae McCalla, who was replaced less than ten minutes after the break, had Portmore’s best attempt of the first half with an ambitious strike from distance which whisked past goalkeeper Javon Sample’s top corner.
It was business as usual for Jabloteh though, against a very physically Portmore side that forced top Guyanese referee Sherwin Moore to reach for his yellow card seven times, including the red shown to a frustrated Manning who was handed his second booking of the game over the 90-minute mark for dissent.
But the game had earlier turned sour for Jabloteh after a dreadful miss by Simpson, who struck the upright with the empty goal at his mercy just over the hour mark.
Lewis had initiated the counterattack out of the back before releasing Kadeem Corbin into an vacant Portmore half with only goalkeeper Paul at his mercy. Corbin on entering the Jamaicans’ penalty area forced Paul to commit before rolling the ball right to Simpson who, shockingly, hit the base up the upright.
Jabloteh head coach Keith Jeffrey, possibly expressing his fury, later replaced the midfielder with Kennedy Simpson, then with his team still holding the two-goal cushion followed with a double-change with Micah Lansiquot and Hayden Tinto replacing Elijah Manners and Corbin, respectively, with quarter-of-an-hour left.
But Portmore had earlier plans. Their head coach Linval Dixon had made changes too.
Substitute Jeremie Lynch pulled back a goal for the Jamaicans, beating Jabloteh goalie Sample five minutes from time after meeting a pass from Cleon Pryce inside the box.
Then two minutes later Portmore’s captain Ewan Grandison drilled in a low shot into Sample’s bottom corner after making contact to to Javon East's cross to level the scores at 2-2.
Jabloteh, who had missed second-half chances by Corbin and twice from Lewis, were rescued by Sample in stoppage-time when he kept out another Lynch attempt.
Cibao's Argentine goalkeeper Juan Pablo Dominguez—one of three staring changes made by former Barcelona youth coach Albert Benaiges Sala for the clash—also made a superb one-handed save on the night, tipping over Central’s Sean De Silva’s attempt in the first half of the second game.
Cibao later threatened with Ernesto Trinidad's glancing header off playmaker Charles Herold Jr.'s corner in the 37th-minute.
Central survived another scare two minutes from the half when American Gerard Paul Lavergne's powerful low drive cannoned off goalkeeper Ryan "Godda" Thompson's far upright.
But the Couva Sharks weren't spared seconds later by Aruban referee Ricangel de Leca who issued Nathaniel Garcia -- cautioned earlier for apparent time wasting -- a second yellow then the automatic red card following a tackle on defender Richard Damas.
Central responded with a tactical change, replacing Callum Harris with striker Tyrik John after the break, and within the last fifteen minutes gambled it all by replacing Haitian defender Fresnel Simil and defensive midfielder Graham Smith with attacking options Johan Peltier and Keron Cummings in search of the needed equaliser.
The Couva Sharks' troubles had earlier doubled on 53 minutes when Cibao winger Soko swooped in the area to hit past Thompson for a 1-0 lead following a giveaway in the Dominican side's half by Taryk Sampson and a gallop down the left by Domingo Peralta to provide the pass across the Central area.
A place in the final was at stake and didn’t came as a surprise when the action boiled over just over the hour mark, forcing referee De Leca to quell a fracas as Cibao players accused Simil elbowing goalscorer Soko as they prepared to defend a Central corner.
However the remaining half hour, though keenly contested, went goalless, setting the stage for new champions on Sunday.
San Juan Jabloteh 2 (Adrian Reid 34’ pen., Vurlon Mills 41’) vs Portmore United 2 (Jeremie Lynch 85’, Ewan Grandison 87’)
Central FC 0 vs Cibao FC 1 (Patrick Soko 53’)
Team GP W D L GF GA GD Pts
Cibao FC 2 1 1 0 3 2 1 4
Central FC 2 1 0 0 3 2 1 3
Grenades FC 2 0 1 1 3 5 -2 1
Team GP W D L GF GA GD Pts
San Juan Jabloteh 2 1 1 0 4 2 2 4
Portmore United 2 1 1 0 3 2 1 4
Racing FC 2 0 0 2 0 3 -3 0
San Juan Jabloteh (T&T): 1.Javon Sample (GK); 6.Akeem Benjamin, 7.Elijah Manners (8.Micah Lansiquot 76th minute), 9.Keithy Simpson (23.Kennedy Hinkson 70th minute), 10.Kadeem Corbin (14.Hayden Tinto 76th minute), 11.Damian Williams (Capt.), 12.Kion Joseph, 17.Vurlon Mills, 18.Jevon Morris, 24.Adrian Reid, 27.Nathan Lewis.
Unused substitutes: 30.Shemel Louison (GK); 3.Josiah Trimmingham, 5.Shakiyl Phillip, 13.Julio Noel.
Coach: Keith Jeffrey (T&T)
Portmore United (Jamaica): 1.Shaven Sean Paul (GK); 3.Andre Dyce (Yellow Card), 4.Damano Solomon (Yellow Card), 6.Kareem Manning (Yellow Card + Yellow Card = Red Card), 8.Ricardo Morris (Yellow Card), 12.Sue-Lae McCalla (10.Maalique Foster 54th minute), 15.Javon East, 17.Ewan Grandison (Capt.) (Yellow Card), 19.Cleon Pryce (Yellow Card), 20.Henrico Ricketts (16.Roberto Johnson 60th minute), 21.Michael Binns (9.Jeremie Lynch 68th minute)
Unused substitutes: 13.Kemar Foster (GK); 5.Ryan Wellington, 22.Kemo Gayle, 24.Damion Binns.
Coach: Linval Dixon (JAM)
Referee: Sherwin Moore (GUY)
Central FC: 1.Ryan Thompson (GK); 5.Keston George (Capt.), 6.Carlos Edwards, 7.Jason Marcano, 8.Sean De Silva, 12.Taryk Sampson, 19.Nathaniel Garcia (Yellow Card + Yellow Card = Red Card), 24.Graham Smith (Yellow Card) (10.Keron Cummings 81st minute), 28.Fresnel Simil (11.Johan Peltier 78th minute), 44.Callum Harris (18.Tyrik John 46th minute), 46.Kaydion Gabriel.
Unused substitutes: 30.Akel Clarke (GK); 15.Lloyd Bannister, 40.Clinton Olagunju, 42.Richard Pierre.
Cibao FC (Dominican Republic): 12.Juan Pablo Dominguez (GK), 3.César Danco García, 4.Richard Dabas, 5.José Tafarel Ferreira, 7.Woodensky “Babalito” Cherenfant, 8.Paulson Pierre, 10.Charles Hérold Jr., 11.Domingo Peralta, 13.Rafael Leonardo Flores, 16.Patrick Serge Soko (6.Oscar Florencío 92nd minute), 22.Earnesto Trinidad.
Unused substitutes: 1.Luis Alexander Rodriguez Polanco (GK), 15.Rhonald García, 18.Gerard Lavergne, 20.Edward Acevedo Cruz, 21.José Jáquez Jr., 23.Diego José Ceara Muñoz.
Coach: Albert Benaiges Sala (ESP)
Referee: Ricangel de Leca (ARU)
(Sunday, May 21, 2017)
Central FC vs Portmore United—5pm
Cibao FC vs San Juan Jabloteh—8pm