NORTH SOUND, Antigua (CMC):Cuba confirmed their status as the top football nation in the region by edging former champions Trinidad and Tobago one-nil to capture the Caribbean Cup for the first time here Sunday night.
Twenty-three-year-old Marcel Hernandez's long-range gamble paid off in extra time as a goalkeeper blunder sealed the title for the Cubans, who were appearing in the finals for the third time in 13 years.
Goalkeeper Jan-Michael Williams made a fatal error when he let Hernandez's shot from 35 metres out slip through his grasp to deprive the Soca Warriors their ninth CFU title.
Williams appeared to position himself behind the ball, which spun out of his hand and into the goal in the 22nd minute of extra time, giving Cuba their slender victory over the eight-time champions at the Antigua Recreation Ground.
An otherwise evenly fought tactical contest saw both teams emerging from a goalless first half to drama in the 63rd minute as the former champions rode their luck when Haiti's Jaime Valencia missed a crucial penalty, which would have given them the lead.
Cuba's first-place achievement earns them US$100,000 and a place in the CONCACAF Gold Cup next year.
The Spanish-speaking Caribbean nation earned the trophy by winning their last four games by a combined score of 5-1, following a 1-0 loss to Martinique in their opener.
The Trinidadians, who won eight of the first 13 tournaments, got the second-place prize of US$75,000.
The game was a rematch of the 1999 final, which Trinidad won 2-1 at home in Port-of-Spain.
Cuba, Trinidad, Haiti and Martinique - the tournament's top four finishers, respectively, will represent the Caribbean at the 2013 CONCACAF Gold Cup.
Late substitute Leonel St Preux scored early in extra time as Haiti defeated Martinique 1-0 to secure third place in the opening game on Sunday night.
St Preux, who came off the bench 10 minutes to the end of regulation time, converted five minutes into extra time in a low-key all-French third-place play-off at the Antigua Recreation Ground.
He flicked home an exquisitely delivered 40-yard pass from Wiselet Saint Lois to bring the game alive after more than 90 minutes of football that produced no goals.
Haiti won US$50,000 for third spot, while fourth-place finishers Martinique got US$30,000.