Call it bravery, call it persistence, call it luck. But ten-man San Juan Jabloteh needed a little bit of each on Wednesday night to get past Caledonia AIA 7-6 on kicks from the penalty spot and into the FA Trophy final.
At the Marvin Lee Stadium in Macoya, Jason Marcano missed Jabloteh's second shoot-out attempt. Two Caledonia tries later, it was Daneil Cyrus's effort that was only just saved by Caledonia goalkeeper Kevin Graham.
Jabloteh goalie Cleon John saved from Akim Armstrong in sudden death, and Sheldon Bateau netted the winner to spark Jabloteh celebrations.
Jabloteh will now face North-East Stars in the January 26 finale after the Sangre Grande outfit upset Defence Force 2-0 in the late match, at the same venue, through a brace by captain Charles Pollard.
That the action got that far was all due to a very entertaining second half and then, 30 gruelling minutes of extra time, all of which failed to alter the 2-2 regulation time deadlock.
After 59 minutes Jabloteh were cruising with a 2-0 lead, handed to them by Jason Marcano and Hector Sam within 17 minutes on either side of half-time.
But after Jabloteh lost left back Joel Russell to two bookable offences, Caledonia erased the advantage through strikes by Ryan Stewart, the second coming late on.
The first half belonged to Jabloteh, particularly since they wrested the half-time advantage through Marcano. Before they could seize control though, the Bourg Mulatresse side had to weather the early Caledonia storm.
But Caledonia let themselves down in the attacking third of the field. They should have been toasting the first goal when Conrad Smith stole into space on the right of Jabloteh's six-yard box, only to blast wide of John's near post.
After the first ten minutes Jabloteh grabbed the attacking momentum, yet their composure up front left something to be desired. Caledonia defender Cyrus was allowed to escape after a defensive blunder while for Jabloteh, right back Christon Thomas's ball was too long for left wing Jamal Jack.
Even captain Marvin Oliver missed a sitter from 18 metres, poking tamely at Graham.
But for Marcano, his 42nd minute chance was too easy as another "Cali" mistake saw the loose ball fall between Marcano and teammates Jerrel Britto and Atualla Guerra. Britto headed down after some hesitation and Marcano picked his spot low into Graham's near post.
Despite a Caledonia resurgence early in the second half, Jabloteh doubled their lead in the 59th.
On the break, Guerra laid off for Thomas on the right, and he whipped in a cross to Sam inside the left penalty area, whose deft chip found Graham's far post.
But the match changed when Russell was sent off for his second yellow card. His indiscipline put a damper on the contest, with his tortoise-like retreat from the field despite the urgings of both the referee and Jabloteh coach Terry Fenwick.
The other crucial moment was Caledonia's double substitution in the 61st by coach Jamaal Shabazz, with Densill Theobald and Armstrong replacing Travis Mulraine and Conrad Smith.
Three minutes later, Cali's comeback had officially started, with Theobald's perfect through-pass finding Stewart on the right of the penalty area, and his right-footed shot beat John first time to the far post.
Perhaps they had little choice with a player disadvantage, but Jabloteh defended deep into their own half, allowing Caledonia more room to attack.
Caledonia were rewarded in the 88th, leaving Fenwick fuming. Substitute Armstrong blazed down the right flank, leaving Jabloteh substitute Elijah Manners in his wake, and laid off for Stewart's right-footed far post finish.
And after 30 minutes of extra time, which Jabloteh controlled despite their disadvantage, it took a shoot-out to separate the teams.
But Jabloteh showed character after falling behind, through two crucial saves by John to strike the final winning blow.
San Juan Jabloteh 2 (Jason Marcano 42nd, Hector Sam 59th) vs Caledonia AIA 2 (Ryan Stewart 64th, 88th).
Jabloteh won 7-6 on penalties.
North East Stars 2 (Charles Pollard 24th, 45th+) vs Defence Force 0.
Pollard heads Stars into FA final.
T&T Guardian Reports.
San Juan Jabloteh and DirecTV North East Stars, both former winners will meet in the January 26 final of the T&T Football Federation FA Trophy competition after contrasting semi-final victories at the Marvin Lee Stadium, Macoya on Wednesday.
In the first match of the night’s double-header, Jabloteh, winners in 1998 and 2005 squandered a 2-0 lead before getting the better of 2008 champion, Caledonia AIA 7-6 on sudden-death penalty kicks thanks to goalkeeper, Cleon John.
Three minutes before the halftime interval, Jabloteh took a 1-0 lead when a right-sided centre by, national Under-20 captain and Sporting Kansas City target, Sheldon Bateau ricocheted off team-mate Hector Sam’s chest into the path of fellow striker Britto, who then played the ball off to Jason Marcano to fire past Jamaican goalkeeper Kevin Graham.
Jabloteh added to its tally in the 59th when a right-sided cross from Christan Thomas was missed by Caledonia’s Abdullah Phillip and fell to Sam, who took the ball on his chest before he guided a right footer into the top left corner of the goal.
But a minute later, Jabloteh was reduced to ten men when midfielder, Joel Russell was shown a second yellow card by referee Rashby Mc Phie. Russell was issued the second card for a silly lunge on substitute Akim Armstrong, who was introduced right after the second goal along with Densill Theobald.
It did not take long for Caledonia to capitalise as Armstrong fed Theobald a short pass, and he sliced Jabloteh’s defence open with a pass to Ryan Stewart who fired a low right-footed effort past goalkeeper Cleon John for a 2-1 scoreline.
Caledonia's Ishmael Daniel then missed a glaring chance in the 70th minute when he volleyed straight at John from less than six-yards out after a Jean-Luc Roacford cross deflected off Jabloteh’s Ataullah Guerra into his path.
Three minutes from the end of regulation time, Caledonia’s persistence brought reward when Armstrong picked up a pass from ‘keeper Graham on the half, outpaced Jabloteh’s Elijah Manners down the flank and centred for Stewart.
The rhasta hair-styled midfielder then re-directed the ball past a surprised John with a one-time volley for a 2-2 score to set up the 30-minutes of extra-time which failed to separate both teams.
In the penalty shoot-out, Kareem Joseph, Guyana’s Walter Moore, Rochford and Stephan David all scored while lanky defender Daneil Cyrus saw his team’s fourth attempt pushed onto the base of the right post by John.
On the other hand Jabloteh’s, Manners, Kennedy Hinkson, Ataullah Guerra and Oliver also scored while Marcano had the second attempt saved by Graham to send the match into sudden-death.
Stewart and Daneil confidently netted for Caledonia while Thomas and Johan Peltier were also successful for Jabloteh.
Daniel was next with Caledonia’s eighth effort which was kept out by John diving low to his left and with a chance to seal victory for Jabloteh, Bateau then slammed home past Graham to seal a spot in the final.
While the first match needed penalty-kicks to find a winner, the second match was virtually over by the end of the first-half, as Guyanese international defender, Charles Pollard first-half brace sealed a 2-0 win for Stars over Defence Force.
FA winners’ in 2003, Pollard headed Stars in front in the 37th minute when he connected with a right-sided cross from Kevaughn Connell.
Then on the stroke of halftime, Pollard started and ended a counter-attack from his own 18-yard box, by burying a right footer past Graham after receiving a pass from Anthony Wolfe, and eluding Defence Force’s Richard Roy and Ronald St Louis inside the area.
But the “Teteron Boys”, winner in 1974, 1981, 1985, 1989, 1991 and 1996 have only themselves to blame as coach Ross Russell surprisingly left top scorer, Devon Jorsling, captain Corey Rivers, Albert Thornhill and Dexter Pacheco on the bench to start the match.
And despite the introduction of three of the regulars in the second-half, the deficit proved too much to overcome.
CALEDONIA AIA: Kevin Graham; Daneil Cyrus, Kemron Purcell, Ishmael Daniel, Kareem Joseph; Travis Mulraine (Densill Theobald 61st), Stephan David (capt), Abdallah Phillip (Walter Moore 80th), Jean Luc-Rochford, Ryan Stewart; Conrad Smith (Akim Armstrong 61st).
SAN JUAN JABLOTEH: Cleon John; Joel Russell, Anton Hutchinson (Kennedy Hinkson 75th), Jamal Jack, Sheldon Bateau, Corneal Thomas; Marvin Oliver (capt), Ataullah Guerra, Jason Marcano; Hector Sam (Elijah Manners 63rd), Jerrel Britto (Johan Peltier 112nd).
DEFENCE FORCE: Kevin Graham; Keston Williams (capt), Rondell Elcock, Aklie Edwards, David Alleyne (Devon Jorsling 49th); Anton Joseph, Ronald St Louis (Jemel Seabro 66th), Ross Russell jnr, Balondemu Julius (Corey Rivers 52nd), Jerwyn Balthazar; Richard Roy.
NORTH EAST STARS: Michael Woods (Andrew Durant 46th); Charles Pollard (capt), Glenton Wolfe, Kevaughn Connell, Keryn Navarro; Jeromie Williams, Marc Leslie, Carey Harris (Kendall Velox 63rd), Akiel Guevara (Errol McFarlane 87th), Gary Glasgow; Anthony Wolfe.