Substitute Keyon Edwards taught DirecTV W Connection a lesson in finishing as he netted his team’s only real chance, securing a 1-0 win for Neal & Massy Caledonia AIA over the six-time champion, in their First Citizens Cup semifinal match. This was at the Hasely Crawford Stadium, Mucurapo, on Friday night. With the hard-fought win, Caledonia which came from behind to beat T&TEC 2-1 in last year’s final, set up a date with two-time champion, Defence Force, a 2-1 winner over St Ann’s Rangers, in Friday’s final at the same venue from 8 pm.
But while Jamal Shabazz-coached Caledonia was the team celebrating at the end of the second semifinal, coach Stuart Charles-Fevrier’s W Connection, winners in 2001, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2008 could blame no one but itself as Joevin Jones and Rennie Britto combined to squander no fewer than three clear chances for the Savonetta Boys. They were made to rue their missed efforts when Edwards, who replaced winger Abdallah Phillips in the 74th minute, was on spot at the far post to tap in a left-sided cross by fellow substitute Densil Theobald, who was introduced for injured striker Kerlon Ferguson, four minutes before the half.
The win was the ideal tonic for Caledonia, the Caribbean Football Union Club champion, which was coming off a 2-1 loss on Wednesday night away to Honduran club, CD Marathon in their final round-robin match, after suffering defeats in four of its first five competitive matches this season. On the other hand, W Connection, which drew 1-1 with Mexico’s Chivas De Guadalajara in its final match on Wednesday night in Group Eight at the Ato Boldon Stadium, Couva, now turns its attention to the start of the Digicel T&T Pro League title defence versus newcomer Central FC on Tuesday at the same Couva venue from 6 pm.
In the night’s first semifinal, all three goals came in the second-half as ten-man Defence Force repeated its 2-1 league triumph over Rangers at the same venue, two weeks ago for a chance at a third lien on the Cup and first since 2009. Like W Connection, the St Ann’s-based club had only itself to blame for the loss as it wasted a number of clear-cut chances in the first 45 minutes which somehow ended 0-0 after Hector Sam, Mikhail Awai and Andrew Smith each came close to an opener in the first 30 minutes.
There was still time for Rangers to create another goalscoring chance before the whistle. This time, national Under-23 striker Cameron Roget was the culprit as he fired straight at Defence Force defender, captain Corey Rivers, on the goalline after Graham was beaten by a Devon Modeste centre. At the start of the second-half, Defence Force began to see more of ball and also wasted an opportunity to take the lead in the 54th minute when Ross Russell Jr, the son of coach Ross Russell, robbed Rangers’ Christon Thomas of the ball and bore down on goal, only to fire wide of the goal guarded by goalkeeper Zane Coker while at the other end of the field, Marcano also hit wide of the target after stealing the ball from Rodell Elcock.
Rangers was then handed a man advantage on the hour mark when Elcock was shown his second yellow-card for a foul on Jamal Jack, who was in the process of mounting a counterattack for his team. However, despite being down to ten men, Defence Force took the lead seven minutes later when Jerwyn Balthazar was on spot to hit home past Coker on the second attempt. This after an unmarked Devorn Jorsling ran onto Balthazar’s pass between the Rangers defence, but saw his effort ricocheted into his teammate’s path. He laid it back to Jorsling, who was stopped by Coker, only for the ball to drop to Balthazar, who this time fired into a gaping goal for a 1-0 cushion and 11 minutes later Richard Roy squared for the speedy Kevon Carter to double his team’s lead.
But seven minutes before the end of regulation time, Rangers won a penalty when referee Gyasi McDonald whistled for a handled ball on Marvin Jones off a shot by substitute Nicolas Castellanos inside the 18-yard box. Modeste stepped up and easily converted, however it was too late as Defence Force earned a spot in Friday’s final, its sixth in tournament history. The winner of Friday’s final will collect an $80,000 while the runner-up gets $20,000. In addition, to the team prizes in the final, the tournament’s topscorer and “Most Valuable Player” will each collect $1,000, the “MVP” of gets $500 and the “Dash for Cash” winner, $1,000.
Results: D/Force 2 (Jerwyn Balthazar 67th, Kevon Carter 78th) vs St Ann’s Rangers 1 (Devon Modeste 83rd pen) Caledonia 1 (Keyon Edwards 89th) vs W Connection 0