AFTER two long years since the last competition, the Coca-Cola Intercol's South Zone semifinals returned in roaring fashion as two feisty prides of Lions devoured their helpless prey at the Ato Boldon, Couva, on Wednesday evening.
The La Romaine Lions – St Benedict’s College – and the Pres Lions – Presentation College (San Fernando) – both advanced to the South Zone Intercol final after defeating Moruga Secondary and Naparima College 10-0 and 1-0, respectively.
In the first game of the afternoon, the current Tiger Tanks Premiership champions, St Benedict’s College, mauled the boys from the depths of the southland without mercy.
Leading by example, captain Tarik Lee opened the scoring in the 13th minute as he cheekily rolled the ball past the Moruga goalkeeper, and viscously banged the ball into the empty net.
Nine minutes later, the La Romaine Lions doubled their lead as Lee attempted a shot towards goal, which the goalkeeper saved, but the ball ricocheted onto Moruga defender, Justin Ochoa, and flew in between the posts.
It only took 16 seconds after the break for St Benedict’s to net a third. Mercurial striker, Nicholas Bobcombe, muscled his way through the Moruga defence and clinically placed the ball past the onrushing goalkeeper.
Derrel Garcia made it 4-0 to the Lions in the 50th minute when he received a one-two pass from teammate Josiah Ochoa, and he rifled the ball into the top right corner.
Ochoa made it 5-0 just two minutes after when he headed in a cross delivered by Bobcombe from the right flank. Lee scored his second in the 58th minute via a smart left-footed finish from 10 yards out to make it 6-0.
Ochoa headed in St Benedict’s seventh of the afternoon from a right-sided corner kick in the 72nd minute. He then turned provider seven minutes later as he played a well-weighted through-ball to Jaden Grant, who coolly slotted home to make it 8-0.
The Lions scored yet again from a corner kick in the 80th min as Rayshawn Crichlow found himself in open space and tapped the ball in from six yards out for St Benedict’s ninth goal.
Eight minutes from full time, Bobcombe capitalised on a defensive mistake from the Moruga backline to make it a resounding ten goals to nil, as the La Romaine Lions comfortably marched on to their first South Zone Intercol final since 2014.
The second semifinal showcased the San Fernando Derby between bitter rivals Presentation College and Naparima College. It was a fixture that proved to be tight as both teams struggled to break each other down.
Naparima’s Omari Campbell was close to opening the scoring in the 10th minute when he received an excellent pass from Kanye Francis and fired a shot towards goal, but Presentation goalkeeper, Kanye Lazarus, pulled off a brilliant save – one of many – to deny the Naparima striker.
In a feisty game that seemed like a chess match, the match-winner came in first-half stoppage time as Presentation captain, Dantaye Gilbert, powerfully headed the ball into the back of the net from a right-sided corner kick.
Expressing their discontent after the goal, the Naparima players believed that the corner kick should not have been given in the first place, as it seemed like the ball was last played by the Presentation attacker.
To add to the controversy, assistant referee Yarin Gosine initially signalled for a goal kick. However, referee Kerwin Colley overruled his colleague and awarded Presentation the corner kick.
The teams went into the break with Presentation leading 1-0.
Referee Colley was in the midst of the storm once again in the 59th minute when he waved away a penalty appeal by the Naparima players after Nathaniel O’Garro was impeded by Presentation’s Cody Cooper in the penalty area. Television replays suggested that Naparima had a solid case as Cooper was seemingly guilty of fouling the Naparima number nine.
Colley denied Naparima another penalty in the 71st minute when he declared no foul against Joel Maitland-Wilson on Kanye Francis in the penalty area. Maitland-Watson attempted a challenge where his boot made contact with Francis’ shin, and felled the Naparima attacker. However, the challenge was deemed fair enough to play on as Francis seemed to have already been falling.
Despite heavy Naparima pressure, Presentation, the current Intercol champions, held off their resilient rivals to give themselves an opportunity to defend their South Zone title in next week’s championship match.
In a rage-filled post-match interview, Naparima coach, Travis Mulraine stated, “The team fell short because of the referee. The referee decided the game and he didn’t allow the players to decide the game.”
“Of course, we didn’t finish our chances, but referees should never make mistakes that cost a team the game.”
He continued, “They (the referees) are only human, but their mistakes must not influence the outcome of the game – and that is what happened today.”
In his post-match interview, the winning coach, Shawn Cooper, expressed, “I told you all (the media), that late October coming into November, you will start to see the best of this young team; we are starting to go in that direction.”
“It will be a large mountain to climb against St Benedict’s, (which shows that) the south zone is the most difficult zone to qualify from. We have to regroup, do a lot of work (to prepare for the final).”
The two Lions will meet for the second time this season on November 25 to compete for the coveted crown. In the previous fixture, St Benedict’s defeated their rivals 5-3 in the Premiership semifinals earlier this season.
The Coca-Cola Intercol South Zone final will be played at the Ato Boldon, kicking off at 3.30pm.
SOURCE: T&T Newsday