San Juan Jabloteh let it slip in the final of the Caribbean Football Union (CFU) 2017 Club Championship, losing 1-0 against tournament newbies, Cibao FC, who lifted the Caribbean crown, and in the process took the region’s automatic spot at next season’s Concacaf Champions League.
Defender Richard Madas’ first-half goal at the Hasely Crawford Stadium in Trinidad was enough on Sunday night for the Dominican Republic outfit to hold off the 2003 champions, Jabloteh, who failed to convert a scoring chance seconds into the match and also had a second half goal ruled out, with an offside call, by second assistant referee Dane Ritchie of the Turks and Caicos.
Cibao, though, a club only in their third year of existence and coached by legendary former Barcelona academy coach, Spain’s Albert Benaiges Sala, had been outstanding while breaking barriers throughout the tournament.
Benaiges’ side had become the first Dominican Republic outfit to progress past the first round group stage, something Atletico Pantoja and Atlantico failed to achieve last season as the first two teams to participate in the Caribbean Club Championship from that country.
Cibao then dethroned two-time Caribbean crown holders Central FC last Thursday to reach the final, and now they are champions—the first international title for a Dominican Republic club.
Central eventually had to settle for a fourth-place finish, going under 5-3 on penalties against Jamaica’s Portmore United following 120 minutes of play and a 2-2 regular-time draw in the third-place match which preceded the final.
However all is not lost for Jabloteh, Portmore and Central, who, as the Caribbean’s second, third and fourth-placed teams, respectively, will gain valuable international experience at the newly formed Concacaf League, which kicks off in August, and includes 13 Central American teams.
The winner of the Concacaf League also secures a berth at next season’s newly re-formatted Concacaf Champions League which kicks off in February 2018, and will debut the bright orange of Cibao.
Cibao put the hurt on Jabloteh in the 31st-minute when defender Dabas beat Jabloteh goalie Javon Sample after the Trinidadian side failed to clear a corner from Haitian playmaker Charles Hérold Jr.
But Jabloteh had the earliest chance of the game when Trinidad and Tobago international winger Nathan Lewis headed tamely at Cibao’s Argentine goalkeeper Juan Pablo Dominguez with less than 25 seconds played.
Jabloteh also started strong in the second half and three minutes in, Jamaican midfielder Keithy Simpson had the ball in the back of Dominguez’s net, only to be denied by the flag after a brilliant move on the left by Lewis who combined with Vurlon Mills before playing the ball across the area.
Dominguez then pulled off a fine low save to beat away a Jairo Lombardo effort just before the hour mark after Lewis had picked out Mills in the area with a cross.
However, finding the equaliser was as elusive as the unicorn, and without a natural forward at their disposal, Jabloteh failed to find a way back against, arguably, their toughest opponents of recent years.
Earlier, Central, a far cry from their side that won the 2015 and 2016 Caribbean Club Championships, also struggled against 2005 champions Portmore, although finding their equaliser through captain Keston George with virtually the last kick of regular time to send the game into extra time.
Central had led the game after just four minutes and 4 seconds courtesy an innocuous Jason Marcano strike which looped over Portmore goalkeeper Kemar Foster.
But the Jamaicans fired back twice in the second half through substitute Maalique Foster and Cleon Pryce, against some slack defending in the 50th and 77th minutes, respectively, before George levelled Central late.
Then following thirty minutes of goalless play in extra time, Central shot themselves in the leg when midfielder Sean De Silva skied his side’s first attempt of the penalty shootout overbar.
Portmore were already in front with Michael Binns netting against goalkeeper Akel Clarke in the first kick of the shootout, and as Ewan Grandison, Damion Binns, Jeremie Lynch and Foster all found the back of the net for the Jamaican side, Central continued to trail although Carlos Edwards, George and Lloyd Bannister were clinical from the spot.
San Juan Jabloteh 0 vs Cibao FC 1 (Richard Dabas 31’)
Central FC 2 (Jason Marcano 5’, Keston George 90’+2) vs Portmore United 2 (Maalique Foster 50’, Cleon Pryce 77’)
After Penalties: Central FC 3 v Portmore United 5
Kicks from the penalty mark
Portmore United (5) v Central FC (3)
Michael Binns (scored) - Sean De Silva (overbar)
Ewan Grandison (scored) - Carlos Edwards (scored)
Damion Binns (scored) - Keston George (scored)
Jeremie Lynch (scored) - Lloyd Bannister (scored)
Maalique Foster (scored)
San Juan Jabloteh (T&T): 1.Javon Sample (GK); 6.Akeem Benjamin, 7.Elijah Manners (10.Kadeem Corbin 81st minute), 9.Keithy Simpson, 11.Damian Williams (Capt.) (Yellow Card), 12.Kion Joseph (3.Josiah Trimmingham 87th minute), 16.Jairo Lombardo Escobar (23.Kennedy Hinkson 77th minute), 17.Vurlon Mills, 18.Jevon Morris, 24.Adrian Reid (Yellow Card), 27.Nathan Lewis.
Unused substitutes: 30.Shemel Louison (GK); 5.Shakiyl Phillip, 8.Micah Lansiquot, 13.Julio Noel.
Coach: Keith Jeffrey (T&T)
iCibao 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. (15.Rhonald García 86th minute), 11.Domingo Peralta (20.Edward Acevedo Cruz 90th minute), 13.Rafael Leonardo Flores (Capt.) (Yellow Card), 16.Patrick Serge Soko, 22.Earnesto Trinidad.
Unused substitutes: 1.Luis Alexander Rodriguez Polanco (GK), 6.Oscar Florencío, 18.Gerard Lavergne, 21.José Jáquez Jr., 23.Diego José Ceara Muñoz.
Coach: Albert Benaiges Sala (ESP)
Referee: Mario Escobar (GUA)
Central FC: 30.Akel Clarke (GK); 5.Keston George (Capt.), 6.Carlos Edwards, 7.Jason Marcano, 8.Sean De Silva (Yellow Card), 10.Keron Cummings (15.Lloyd Bannister 76th minute), 11.Johan Peltier 12.Taryk Sampson, 28.Fresnel Simil (18.Tyrik John 115th minute), 29.Michael Kedman (40.Clinton Olagunju 59th minute), 46.Kaydion Gabriel.
Unused substitutes: 1.Ryan Thompson (GK); 17.Akeem Priestly, 24.Graham Smith, 44.Callum Harris.
Coach: Dale Saunders
Portmore United (Jamaica): 13.Kemar Foster (GK); 3.Andre Dyce, 5.Ryan Wellington (Yellow Card), 8.Ricardo Morris, 12.Sue-Lae McCalla (10.Maalique Foster 46th minute), 15.Javon East (9.Jeremie Lynch 71st minute) (Yellow Card), 16.Roberto Johnson (Yellow Card + Yellow Card = Red Card), 17.Ewan Grandison (Capt.), 19.Cleon Pryce (22.Kemo Gayle 87th minute), 21.Michael Binns, 24.Damion Binns (Yellow Card).
Unused substitutes: 1.Shaven Sean Paul (GK); 14.Osani Ricketts, 20.Henrico Ricketts.
Coach: Linval Dixon (JAM)
Referee: Gianni Ascani (TCA)