Defence Force will play in the first knock out final of the 2012/13 season after a 2-1 win over St Ann’s Rangers this evening in the First Citizens Cup semifinal at the Hasely Crawford Stadium, Port of Spain.
The army/coast guard combination will face Neal & Massy Caledonia AIA at the same venue on Friday 5 October 2012 after the Caribbean champions edged regional runners-up DirecTV W Connection 1-0 in the second game of tonight’s double header. (Read full report here)
Almost certainly, Defence Force coach Ross Russell would need an improved performance next week if he expects to get near the trophy.
The “Teteron Boys” met Rangers, two weeks ago, in the opening Digicel Pro League fixture and the final scoreline was identical. The pattern of play, however, could hardly have been more different.
In a scrappy affair, Rangers created enough chances to have won the match comfortably within the first hour and then enjoyed a numerical advantage for the final 30 minutes as opposing defender Rodell Elcock was ejected for a second yellow card.
Somehow, Rangers contrived to squander them all save a penalty decision and paid the price for this genorosity.
Overrun two weeks ago, the St Ann’s squad was more compact in the First Citizens Cup and would not be stretched by a Defence Force side missing adventurous left back Aklie Edwards. And responsible ball movement saw Rangers create several scoring opportunities too as a bewildered Defence Force team found itself on the ropes.
Hector Sam, who scored a brilliant goal when the two teams last met, might have had another today but for a fine save by army custodian Kevin Graham low to his right in the 13th minute.
Rangers captain Mikhail Awai threatened too with a volley from just outside the opposing penalty box that dipped just over the bar in the 20th minute
Seven minutes later, Graham could only look on and pray as a Sam cross eliminated the Defence Force backline and found Andrew Smith unmarked at the far post. Six yards from an open goalmouth, Smith leaned backwards and cushioned his header. Wide.
Remarkably, Rangers conjured up another sitter in the first half.
This time, Devon Modeste nullified Graham with a right side cross for striker Cameron Roget. Defence Force captain Cory Rivers, the lone defender back, slid towards his goalline.
And Roget, with all the time in the world, shot early, weakly and straight at Rivers.
The second half followed the same pattern with both teams gifted simple chances but failing to take them.
Defence Force winger Ross Russell Jr stole the ball from Christon Thomas in the 54th minute and then, clear on goal, shot wide. Rangers midfielder Jason Marcano responded, four minutes later, by stripping Rodell Elcock but then also failing to hit the target from inside the box.
A rash tackle by Elcock on opposing defender Jamal Jack, as he tried to thwart a Rangers counter attack, earned him a second yellow card and an early trip to the dressing room as Defence Force was forced to play the final half hour with 10 men.
If anything, though, the setback roused the regiment and, when Rangers erred in the back again, Defence Force took advantage.
Almost farcically but typical of the affair, Defence Force needed three chances to finish from the same play.
Devorn Jorsling, alone between four Rangers, was left criminally unattended as he ran on to a Jerwyn Balthazar through pass but could not get a shot off fast enough and the ball ricocheted back to Balthazar.
Balthazar returned to Jorsling who was then denied by a desperate tackle from Rangers goalkeeper Zane Coker.
Yet again, the loose ball rolled to Balthazar and, this time, he decided to do the job himself and tucked into an unguarded net in the 67th minute.
The advantage was doubled in the 78th minute after some lenient officiating by Gyasi McDonald.
Rangers defender Elijah Belgrave felt he was unfairly muscled out of possession by Defence Force striker Richard Roy and it was hard to argue with that assessment. But McDonald allowed play to continue and Roy’s low cross was finished easily by Kevon Carter.
Rangers did finally get a goal when McDonald ruled that Marvin Jones blocked a Nicolas Castellanos effort with his arm. The resulting penalty kick from Modeste was composed and efficient.
But it was as good as it got for Pacheco’s men.
Defence Force, minus the suspended Elcock, will hope to turn it on when it counts in next Friday’s First Citizens Cup final.
1.Kevin Graham; 4.Marvin Jones, 20.Rodell Elcock, 5.Devin Jordan, 14.Cory Rivers (Capt), 8.Curtis Gonzales, 11.Kevon Carter, 15.Jerwin Balthazar, 17.Ross Russell Jr, 9.Richard Roy (29.Jemel Sebro 89), 10.Devorn Jorsling (3.Keston Williams 74).
Unused Subs: 25.Sheldon Clarke, 12.Josimar Belgrave, 13.Anton Joseph, 16.Kerry Joseph, 18.Sean Narcis
Coach Ross Russell
St Ann’s Rangers:
1.Zane Coker; 23.Kadeem Drayton, 11.Elijah Belgrave, 12.Jamal Jack, 13.Christon Thomas; 10.Devon Modeste, 7.Jason Marcano, 15.Mikhail Awai (Capt), 31.Andrew Smith (30.Nicolas Castellanos 74); 9.Hector Sam; 14.Cameron Roget.
Unused Subs: 22.Akel Clarke, 5.Justin Harper, 26.Jemel Berot, 27.Kyle Bartholomew, 28.Kurdell Braithwaite
Coach Dean Pacheco
First Citizens Cup Semifinal Round
Defence Force 2 (Jerwyn Balthazar 67, Kevon Carter 78), St Ann’s Rangers 1 (Devon Modeste 83 pen)
Neal & Massy Caledonia AIA 1 (Keyon Edwards 89), DirecTV W Connection 0