Fri, Jun


CL Financial San Juan Jabloteh striker Kerry Noray (right) looks to elude Defence Force defender Anton Pierre during Friday night's FCB Cup quarter-final at the Larry Games Stadium, Malabar. The game ended 2-2, with Defence Force coming out on top after penalty kicks.

BY their lofty standards, CL Financial San Juan Jabloteh made a limp effort at defending the FCB Cup when crashing out to the Defence Force at the quarter-final stage on Friday night at the Larry Gomes Stadium, Malabar, Arima.

Their demise was not entirely without resolve, though, as the ex-champions showed a measure of character when battling back from a two-goal first half deficit to level at 2-2 at the end of 90 minutes of competitive football.

But the Defence Force marksmen were superior from the penalty spot from where they prevailed by a 3-1 margin to earn a semi-final meeting with North East Stars-who hammered Tobago United 8-2-on Friday, Republic Day, at the Manny Ramjohn Stadium, Marabella.

Goalkeeper Selwyn George, who was guilty of a serious indiscretion early on, emerged as the Defence Force hero in the penalty shootout by producing diving stops to fend off the kicks of Stokely Mason and Kerry Baptiste, and then provided enough of a distraction to force Trinidad and Tobago captain Angus Eve to put his shot onto an upright.

A year ago, the FCB Cup was one of four competitions which Caribbean champions Jabloteh won. And as with all great teams, there are always convulsions when they are upset by seemingly lesser opposition.

Defence Force had not beaten Jabloteh in a long while and afterwards questions were being asked about why captain Eve and another regular starter, Kerry Baptiste, were on the bench until the second half.

With Jabloteh about to embark on the defence of the Caribbean Club Championship in mid-week and with a hectic schedule coming up of as many as ten matches in 20 days, their English coach Stephen Rutter opted to manage his resources by holding back a few of his trump cards, although still fielding a line-up capable of beating the Defence force.

But his strategy may have backfired.

Rutter admitted that he, too, was humbled by his team's unimpressive showing.

"I thought that we were very poor except for 20 minutes, but after that little cameo we sort of fell flat. Unfortunately, we have a habit of doing that. When we perform, we can take any team apart, but there are always occasions in a game when we fall well below what we can do. What is the cause? I am not sure. Whether it is a reaction to what I coach or psychological is still to be ascertained ," he told the Sunday Express.

The champs' early exit led to a heated debate among the coach and club officials in the team's dugout after the game and a similar exercise at a post-match meeting yesterday.

"Obviously no one in the team is happy. But this result must not be taken in isolation. We have not played well since I have been here," Rutter admitted.

"Everybody closely involved with a team is very passionate and if we have not played well, the prime movers tell us so. There is a lot of dialogue in this club and that is good. If Jerry (Hospedales, the Jabloteh chairman) had come down from the stands and patted me on the back and said things were good, I would have been flabbergasted. No one was happy, not the players, not I and not the financiers of the club... and rightfully so," he added.

Earlier on, Jabloteh's troubles seemed a millennium away and they arrived on time at Arima, only to be delayed 45 minutes by the late arrival of the Defence Force team, which was gridlocked in the Friday evening traffic heading East.

But when they finally checked in, the Defence Force came with their shooting gear fully intact.

Rarely able to breach Jabloteh's back line, the Army-Coast Guard combination found an effective tactic by shooting with regularity from outside the penalty area.

Captain Kurt Williams was first to test Jabloteh keeper Daurance Williams from outside when he looked up in the seventh minute and unleashed a rocket into the top left corner of his opponents' net.

But after the brilliant start, Defence force immediately let down their guard and it took a close-up fingertip push from keeper George to prevent striker Kerry Noray from giving Jabloteh an equaliser a minute later.

Still the Army team continued to shoot from distance and midfielder Christon Baptiste brought the best out of keeper Williams with another good shot, while Jerwyn Belthazar got another headed goalward but over the bar.

On the half-hour, Defence Force skipper Williams ran onto Kwesi Smith's floated cross from the flank and prodded the ball towards goal.

But displaying cat-like reflexes, Daurance Williams pawed the ball back at the striker, whose uncontrolled forward momentum deflected the ball wide.

In the 44th minute, though, Kurt Williams got the "bazooka" on target again and, with the aid of a wicked deflection, put Defence Force into a 2-0 lead.

That, however, was a tale of contrasting halves and in the second Jabloteh found a hero in midfielder Trent Noel, who would get a brace as well.

As expected, the champs did not go down and as they piled on the pressure, Jabloteh were rewarded when Noel swept the ball past goalkeeper George from close up after a series of interchanges in the 54th minute.

Noray grabbed the ball out of the Defence Force net and the Jabloteh players raced to centre-field, inducing an immediate re-start from referee Richard Piper.

And just four minutes later, they were level at 2-2 when, from the gravest of errors, goalie George felled Noray, who was being nicely ushered away from the penalty area.

Defence Force coach Kerry Jamerson had all the while been barking orders to his defenders from the side-line. But then he was livid.

Had things not worked out favourably from the penalty spot for the soldiers, goalkeeper George might have well been shot by a firing squad the next day.