Knockout kings STETHS outlast Clarendon College - Await Lennon or Cornwall in Ben Francis Cup final
St Elizabeth Technical (STETHS) are into a seventh straight ISSA-FLOW Ben Francis Cup final, thanks in no small measure to goalkeeper Kenroy Wallace and their captain Chris-Andrew Dixon, who could do no wrong in yesterday's 4-3 semi-final sudden-death penalty kick victory over the highly-fancied Clarendon College at Manchester High.
It was a game of changing fortunes and missed opportunities, but in the end, STETHS' never-say-die tilt lifted them over their opponents for a place in the final, where they will face either Lennon or Cornwall College, who meet later this afternoon in the other semi-final.
Wendell Downswell, the STETHS technical director, described the clash as a classic, one that will be remembered for a long time.
Indeed he is right. The game that began rather cautiously, sparked to life in the ninth minute, when Demar James lifted a ball over Benjamin Williams in goal for Clarendon.
They enjoyed a fair deal of ball possession up until the 37th minute when Clarendon had their first serious chance at goal. Midfielder Reynaldo Richardson should have scored when he cut inside his marker, but fired over the bar.
That was how the half ended, 1-0 in the defending champion's favour. But if the first half was any indication, the second 45 minutes was literally heart-stopping action.
Glendo Gopaul fired in a 52nd-minute penalty, as STETHS held a 2-0 lead before Creggton Charleton the Clarendon captain cut the lead in half in the 60th.
With seconds left in added time, Shemar Hunter scored a wonder goal to tie the game at 2-2 sending the match into extra time.
There was yet to be more twists before it all ended. Seven minutes into the extra time, Charlton would strike again, as Clarendon took control of the game with a 3-2 lead.
Once again, with mere seconds remaining, STETHS would respond. Alex Thomas made no mistake from inside the area, beating Williams with a shot for the tie at 3-3, sent the spectators wild in celebration, as the Santa Cruz-based team forced the dreaded penalty shootout, where Wallace ended up starring.
Wallace denied Shande James, who spotted for Clarendon's second kick, before saving from Charlton to send the game into sudden-death penalty at 3-3, after his team-mates Tahjae Green and Thompson missed at their turn.
In sudden death, Hunter missed, leaving Dixon to rifle his spot kick into the back of the net as STETHS celebrated advancing to a seventh successive Ben Francis Cup final.
"This is why this team is so hard to beat," Downswell noted. "We will fight to the very end. This is the hallmark of true champions and now that we are over this hurdle, we intend to be likewise determined in the final."
A defeated Paul Davis, the Clarendon College head coach, said he was bitterly disappointed, but praised the efforts of his team.
"I am disappointed we never held on for the win, but it was a beautiful game, and we were just unfortunate in the penalty kicks.
We still have the semi-final of the daCosta Cup to contend with," said Davis.