Knock­out kings STETHS out­last Claren­don Col­lege

... Await Lennon or Corn­wall in Ben Fran­cis Cup fi­nal

Jamaica Gleaner - - TUESDAY SPORTS - Paul Clarke Gleaner Writer

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.

HEART-STOP­PING AC­TION

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 heart­stop­ping ac­tion.

Glendo Gopaul fired in a 52nd­minute 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.

SUD­DEN DEATH

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.

PAUL CLARKE/PHOTOGRAPHER

Alex Thomas (left) of St El­iz­a­beth Tech­ni­cal (STETHS) holds off Claren­don Col­lege’s Dono­van Noble dur­ing the ISSA/FLOW Ben Fran­cis Cup semi-fi­nal showdown in Manchester yes­ter­day. STETHS won 4-3 af­ter sud­den-death penalty kicks.

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