San Juan North Secondary copped their second successive Coca Cola East Zone Intercol title this afternoon, defeating Valencia Secondary by a 2-0 margin at the Larry Gomes Stadium in Malabar.
In a final that they dominated from start to finish, the boys from Bourg Mulatresse sealed the victory with second-half goals by the dangerous attacking duo of Renaldo Boyce and Brandon Semper.
On another day, the defending National Intercol champions could have run up a tennis score. However, woeful finishing and an inspired goalkeeping effort by Valencia’s Hezron D’Abreau ensured that the San Juan faithful had some anxious moments.
As the chances came and went for San Juan, it was clear that the question was “when?” and not “whether?” San Juan would get on the scoresheet.
But even then, “Bourg” needed their fair share of luck as Semper’s 51st minute item only came after a Valencia item was ruled offside and defender Jacob Wilson made a right mess of a long pass from San Juan winger Tyrell Cameron.
Although Semper missed an absolute sitter in the fourth minute after a shocking D’Abreau error—his only mistake in the entire game—the San Juan attacker is not known for turning down gifts. And after Wilson’s attempted interception left him with water in the knee, Semper—“Sprite” to his friends—calmly tucked a left-footed shot under the advancing D’Abreau.
And, like he did in the 2016 East Zone final, Semper paid tribute to two of his deceased relatives in his goal celebration.
Valencia coach Roland Clarke was disappointed that his team didn’t get the rub of the green just seconds before, when a player bundled in from close range after danger man Keegan Faria swung in a cross from the left flank.
“I think they handled the game well in the first half and up until the first goal,” Clarke told Wired868. “I was a bit puzzled as to why an offside was called and I think that changed the game because I didn’t see any reason for an offside.”
As far as outfield players go, Faria was in a class of his own for Valencia, gliding across the park in silky fashion whenever the ball was at his feet. It often required the attentions of two or three San Juan players to force him to release the ball.
Unfortunately for Faria, he needed some more assistance from his schoolmates. And although D’Abreau and his defence did their best, their Premier Division opponents were just too much.
San Juan coach Jerry Moe said his charges want to be on the Intercol’s biggest stage again.
“We want to play on the first and last day of the season,” said Moe, “so our objective is to play until the season finishes.”
Although they were sharp and asserted themselves from the onset, it initially looked as though they had left their finishing boots in the locker room. Boyce was the most culpable on the day, as the burly striker could have easily bagged a hat-trick.
In the first half alone, the San Juan captain twice missed with the goal at his mercy, while he was thwarted by D’Abreau on two occasions and had to watch as a goal-bound effort was dramatically cleared off the line by Valencia defender Nathaniel De Silva in only the sixth minute.
Boyce’s miss in the 40th minute took the cake as, with D’Abreau helpless on the ground after his initial save, he somehow failed to poke into an empty net.
Moe never looked flustered, though, and opted to look on the bright side when both teams remained goalless at the halfway stage.
“I was impressed with the effort we put in to create those chances so at half-time we just focused on the positives,” said Moe. “We knew we would have gotten chances again in the second half. Football is based on fitness and we knew we were fitter than them so we just tried to keep pressing…”
It was both a test of fitness and concentration for Valencia, as San Juan bombarded them with their direct route play—centre-backs Josiah Beard and Kyle Thomas repeatedly launching long balls towards the opposing backline.
“All in all, I have to give the guys credit because they held their end very well,” Clarke said. “We dealt with the long throws and the corners well because [San Juan North used those] very effectively against St Augustine [Secondary] and I dealt with it tactically.”
In the 51st minute, Wilson was asked to deal with one long ball too many and he hung D’Abreau out to dry, leaving Semper as the beneficiary.
Having produced tremendous point-blank saves to thwart Boyce and Kyle Thomas, the Valencia goalie had to pick the ball out of his net for the second time in the 79th minute.
Again, the play started with a long pass which, on this occasion, Semper flicked into Boyce’s path. And the San Juan North captain kept his composure and opposing substitute Ronaldo Edwards at bay, rounded D’Abreau and buried his left-footed shot in the empty net.
Boyce and Semper have scored a goal each in all three Intercol rounds this season—Boyce has five Intercol items in total while Semper has three.
Clarke lauded D’Abreau for having kept Valencia in the game for as long as he did-and for helping Valencia to gain promotion for the 2018 Premier Division season.
“D’Abreau always has us in a game,” said Clarke. “Ever since the season started, he has been brilliant for us so we always expect brilliance from him. Form is temporary and class is forever, and that’s what he has—class!”
In the 87th minute, San Juan substitute Sherwin Williams nearly made it 3-0, meeting a lovely cross from Cameron at the back stick. However, D’Abreau’s post came to his rescue on that occasion.
Next up for San Juan North is the National Intercol semifinal on Thursday November 30 when they meet either St Mary’s College or Signal Hill Secondary.
Moe wants his team to take things in stride, though.
“There’s always a pressure but we try to keep them level-headed all the time,” said Moe. “We don’t like them getting too carried away and thinking they are bigger than they are.”
They are just 180 minutes away from being the first school in the Premier Division era to defend the National Intercol title.
Valencia Secondary (4-2-3-1): 1.Hezron D’Abreau (GK); 9.Kerron Kelly, 4.Jacob Wilson (5.Ronaldo Edwards 78), 15.Nathaniel De Silva, 3.Giovanni Lewis; 11.Kerdel Deverteuil, 8.Daniel La Croix (captain); 7.Andre Robinson (19.Akil Skeete 58), 10.Keegan Faria, 17.Jeremy Adolphus; 14.Remy Butler (12.Ansil Elcock 68).
Unused Substitutes: 2.Arkim Phillip, 13.Kerwin Deverteuil, 16.Kern Fraser, 22.Keiyon Henry.
Coach: Roland Clarke
San Juan North (4-4-2): 1.Shawndell Byer (GK); 20.Isaiah Chase, 7.Josiah Beard, 21.Kyle Thomas, 17.Kareem John; 8.Lukeman Brooks (19.Sherwin Williams 71), 22.Nathaniel Perouse, 3.Elair Brewster, 2.Tyrell Cameron (10.Josiah Phillip 90+2); 6.Brandon Semper (4.Kareem Grant 90), 9.Renaldo Boyce (captain).
Unused Substitutes: 30.Emmanuel Clarke (GK), 5.Keon McPherson, 16.Obadele Dickson, 26.Kellon Murrien.
Coach: Jerry Moe
Referee: Nicholas Murray
Wired868 Man-of-the-Match: Brandon Semper
Today’s Coca Cola Intercol results
(Wednesday 22 November)[East Zone final]
San Juan North 2 (Brandon Semper 51, Renaldo Boyce 79), Valencia Secondary 0 at Larry Gomes Stadium.
Upcoming Intercol fixtures
(Thursday 23 November)
Naparima College v Shiva Boys HC, South Zone finals, 3.30pm, Mannie Ramjohn Stadium;
(Monday 27 November)
Signal Hill v St Mary’s College, National quarterfinals, TBA;
(Thursday 30 November)
San Juan North v Signal Hill/St Mary’s College, 3.30pm, National semifinals, Ato Boldon Stadium;
Naparima/Shiva Boys v Carapichaima East, 5.30pm, National semifinals, Ato Boldon Stadium;
South v Central, National Girls Semifinals, TBA;
East v North/Tobago, National Girls Semifinals, TBA;
(Monday 4 December)
National Girls Intercol finals, 3pm, Ato Boldon Stadium;
National Boys Intercol Finals, 5pm, Ato Boldon Stadium.