Naparima College advanced to Monday’s Secondary Schools Football League Big Four Super Cup final when they defeated 2016 Inter-Col champions San Juan North Secondary 1-0 in the first semi-final fixture at the Ato Boldon Stadium, Couva, yesterday.
Naps enjoyed the better of the exchanges and should have run out comfortable winners if not for several glaring misses, but defender Shadeon Arthur spared their blushes when he chipped San Juan custodian Shawndell Byer from 30 metres out in the 72nd minute.
The opening 20 minutes did not produce any excitement as the players experienced some difficulty in keeping their footing on a surface made slippery by mid-morning rain. But a minute on, Naparima’s Rondell Payne had a free header off a Justin Sadoo right side corner, which he placed over the crossbar.
Naps’ right winger Ronaldo McIntosh came close in the 25th minute when he raced into the area and sent a curling shot at goal, but he failed to keep it down. And five minutes later, captain Shane Sandy placed his free kick into the wall after Renaldo Francois was heavily body-checked just outside the area by Kyle Thomas.
Naps continued to dominate; Francois bore down on goal in the 33rd minute after exchanging quick, short passes on the left with defender Khris Stroud, but Byer was equal to the task, coming up with a sharp save at his near post.
At the other end, Renaldo Boyce got in behind Naps’ defence; however, an alert Levi Hernandez was quick to come off his line to avert the danger. And midfielder Josiah Baird had his 41st minute effort partially blocked, while his header off the rebound was easily collect by Fernandez.
Naparima did not capitalise on the possession advantage they enjoyed in the first 45 minutes and had to settle with going in at the break without getting off the mark.
San Juan opened the second half with winger Jerome Cyrus skipping the tackle of Sadoo on the right of the 18-metre box and whipping the ball across the face of the goal, but the Naps defence came up with possession.
Naparima injected a bit of tempo into the match but erratic passing and poor finishing haunted them, with striker Isaiah Lee being most guilty.
He shot wide from close range in the 47th minute when he had the lone figure of Byer standing between him and goal; placed his 55th minute header wide of the upright with Byer poorly positioned, after being picked out by Stroud following an enterprising run on the left; and four minutes later, he failed to beat Byer, who pulled off a low left-handed save, after a nice run off the ball got him into a goal scoring position.
When Naps finally scored, the goal came from a most unlikely source. Arthur received the ball off a Sadoo corner and, observing Byer off his line, he struck a high, looping shot that sailed over the head of the custodian to settle at the back of the net.
Naps’ joy of getting the go-ahead item was temporarily deflated when referee Nikolai Nyron blew his whistle for a 75th minute foul just inside the area on Nathaniel Perouse and pointed to the penalty spot.
San Juan’s Inter-Col hero Brandon Semper stepped up for the spot kick and after several stutter steps he placed his shot over the bar, to the dismay of his teammates, but to Naparima’s relief.
In the final 10 minutes, McIntosh and Sandy had shots on goal for Naparima but Byer snuffed out McIntosh’s attempt while the one from Sandy angled wide.
Had Naps been more clinical in front of goal the margin of victory could have been significantly greater.
They will face Presentation College San Fernando in Monday’s final in what will be an all-south affair, after Pres came from behind to earn a 1-1 draw before going on to win 5-3 on kicks from the penalty spot.
Monday’s final is carded for 4.10 p.m. at the Ato Boldon Stadium.
Naparima College 1 (S. Arthur 72) vs San Juan North Secondary 0
Shiva Boys Hindu College 1 (S. Williams 45+3) vs Presentation College San Fernando 1 (J. Riley 85) –
Presentation won 5-3 on penalties.