Cuba opened the Digicel Caribbean Cup Finals here in Martinique in fine style by beating Trinidad and Tobago 2-0.
After comprehensively wining Group F, 2006 Digicel champions Trinidad and Tobago started brightly and after a well rehearsed short corner routine Keon Daniel worked his way to the edge of the Cuban box and smashed his shot across the goal and just wide.
Cuba then took the game to the Caribbean heavyweights and passed the ball with purpose, looking dangerous as they swept forward. Duarte Pla had managed to impress enough to keep his starting place in the Cuban team and was keen to justify his selection as he led the line well causing considerable trouble to Kern Cupid at the heart of the Trinidad defence..
It was the impressive midfield general and Captain Jaine Valencia who opened the scoring between these two giants when the ball broke kindly for him on the edge of the box and he smashed it past a flying Williams from 18 yards on the half volley to put the Cubans one up.
Rather than the expected immediate fightback the growing crowd expected, it was the Cubans who continued to dominate and looked more likely to increase their lead as the half wore on with Duarte Pla and Campanioni a constant thorn in the side of the Trinidad defence.
Half time saw coach Latapy ring out the changes as Cyrus and Gay came on to add more potency to the Soca Warriors attack.
The changes however seemed to have little effect as the Cubans steamrolled over the Soca boys in midfield and only for a previous infringement that ruled out a second goal for Cuba, things could have been a lot worse.
The game ebbed and flowed and two decisive changes from Cuban coach Triana paid dividends after only two minutes when the substitutes combined to score Cuba’s second and move the game beyond the reach of Trinidad.
After some neat build up play from the back, a lacklustre Trinidad defense was found missing when Balmaseda broke free and when left with a one on one with the keeper selflessly squared for Salor, whose initial shot, although blocked on the line by a retreating defender, was happily smashed into the roof of the net by a jubilant Balmaseda on the rebound.
Things turned from bad to worse for Trinidad after that as Peltier was given a straight red for an off the ball incident spotted by the watchful eye of the assistant referee Venton Mars.
With Cuban centre half Molina eating up any attempt of a Trinidad fightback, the Cubans were content to take the little that Soca Warriors had to offer and see out their opening Digicel Cup Finals game with a win.
For the Soca Warriors it would not have been the start they wanted or that their under pressure coach Latapy would have wished for but with the team looking less impressive and void of any real ideas in going forward, one worries for their future ambitions in the tournament.
The Digicel Cup Finals will be played from November 26 through to December 5 in Martinique with live television broadcast worldwide courtesy of Digicel as well as live radio coverage, images and updates on www.digicelfootball.com.
Trinidad &Tobago: - 1.Jan Michael Williams; 5.Kern Cupid, 3.Yohance Marshall (6.Daneil Cyrus 46th) 12.Julius James, 14.Joevin Jones; 2.Clyde Leon (capt), 8.Trent Noel (7.Hughtun Hector 67th), 15.Lester Peltier (Red 84'), 19.Keon Daniel; 4.Kerry Baptiste (17.Jamal Gay 46th), 9.Devon Jorsling.
Coach: - Russell Latapy.
Cuba: - 1.Odelin Molina Hernandez; 2.Carlos D. Francisco Serrano, 3.Jeniet Marquez Molina, 4.Hanier Dranguet Cantillo, 6.Yoel Colome (17.J Valencia), 7.Marcel Hernandez Companioni, 8.Jaine Colome Valencia (capt), 11.Sander Fernandez Cervantes (13.Adonis Soler 78th), 14.Aliannis Urgelles Montoya, 15.Armando Curumeaux Isidoro, 19.Leonel Duarte Pla (10.Roberto Balmaseda 78th).
Coach: - Raul Gonzalez Triana.
P W D L F A Pts
Cuba 1 1 0 0 2 0 3
Grenada 1 0 1 0 1 1 1
Martinique 1 0 1 0 1 1 1
Trinidad & Tobago 1 0 0 1 0 2 0
Referee: Stanley Lancaster.
Assistant Referee 1: Venton Mars
Assistant Referee 2: Graeme Browne
Match Commissioner: Dale Spencer (Jamaica)
Cuba downs T&T 2-0.
Trinidad and Tobago's Senior footballers got off on the wrong foot in the Digicel Caribbean Cup Finals as they lost 2-0 to Cuba in their opening Group H encounter at the Pierre Aliker Stadium on Friday night.
Going into the match with high hopes after three consecutive victories in the previous phase, T&T never settled on the wet surface and conceded goals on either sides of the half.
Cuban skipper Jaine Valencia opened the scoring in the 23rd minute and Roberto Balmaseda doubled the advantage in the 79th minute to give the Cubans full points on a miserable evening for the Soca Warriors.
Russell Latapy's men made the better start of the two teams when Keon Daniel made some inroads into the Cuban defense and positioned himself nicely before firing inches wide in the opening moments.
But Cuba settled and began to take the game to T&T. They would take the lead when Valencia collected atop the box and wasted no time, smashing the ball past Jan Michael Williams from 18 yards out to spark wild celebrations for the Cubans and leaving skipper Clyde Leon and the T&T team stunned.
T&T struggled to find their rhythm and never looked likely like leveling the scores before half time. It got worse for T&T when La Galaxy defender Yohance Marshall strained his hamstring towards the end of the first half and had to be replaced. He is unlikely to take further part.
After some neat build up play from the back, a lackluster T&T defense was found missing when Balmaseda broke free and when left with a one on one with Williams, unselfishly squared for Adonis Soler, whose initial shot, although blocked on the line by a defender, was nailed home on the rebound by Balmaseda.
Lester Peltier was ejected for an off the ball incident by referee Stanley Lancaster in the 84th minute. Team captain Leon said the result was obviously disappointing.
"I've said all along that if we hold our own at the start then we will always give ourselves a better chance at winning matches and we didn't do that today.
Cuba were not an easy team but we definitely didn't expect to be easy anyways. But the match was disappointing for us.
We didn't play the kind of football that we are capable of and now we will have to come back a lot better in the remaining matches. My goal is to win this Digicel Cup and we must come better and win the remaining matches," Leon told TTFF Media.
T&T will now aim to bounce back in what virtually is a must win match for them against Grenada on Sunday at 4pm. Grenada and Martinique played in the later match.