A rare Trinidad and Tobago attack is handled safely by the Cuban goalkepper. Photo: Digicel
PIERRE ALIKER DILLON, Martinique — Cuba opened the Digicel Caribbean Cup Finals here in Martinique in fine style by beating Trinidad and Tobago 2-0 on Friday.
After comprehensively wining Group F, 2006 Digicel champions Trinidad and Tobago started brightly and, after a well rehearsed short corner routine, Keon Daniel worked his way to the edge of the Cuban box and smashed his shot across the goal and just wide.
Cuba then took the game to the Caribbean heavyweights and passed the ball with purpose, looking dangerous as they swept forward. Duarte Pla had managed to impress enough to keep his starting place in the Cuban team and was keen to justify his selection as he led the line well, causing considerable trouble to Kern Cupid at the heart of the Trinidad defence.
It was the impressive midfield general and captain Jaine Valencia who opened the scoring between these two giants when the ball broke kindly for him on the edge of the box. He smashed it past a flying Williams from 18 yards on the half volley to put the Cubans one up.
Rather than the expected immediate fight back the growing crowd expected, it was the Cubans who continued to dominate and looked more likely to increase their lead as the half wore on, with Duarte Pla and Campanioni a constant thorn in the side of the Trinidad defence.
Half time saw coach Latapy ring out the changes as Cyrus and Gay came on to add more potency to the Soca Warriors attack.
The changes seemed to have little effect, however, as the Cubans steamrollered over the Soca boys in midfield and, but for a previous infringement that ruled out a second goal for Cuba, things could have been a lot worse.
The game ebbed and flowed and two decisive changes from Cuban coach Triana paid dividends after only two minutes, when the substitutes combined to score Cuba’s second and move the game beyond the reach of Trinidad.
After some neat build up play from the back, a lacklustre Trinidad defence was found missing when Balmaseda broke free and went left and, with a one on one with the keeper, selflessly squared for Salor, whose initial shot, although blocked on the line by a retreating defender, was happily smashed into the roof of the net by a jubilant Balmaseda on the rebound.
Things turned from bad to worse for Trinidad after that as Peltier was given a straight red for an off the ball incident spotted by the watchful eye of the assistant referee Venton Mars.
With Cuban centre half Molina eating up any attempt of a Trinidad fight back, the Cubans were content to take the little that Soca Warriors had to offer and see out their opening Digicel Cup Finals game with a win.
For the Soca Warriors it would not have been the start they wanted or that their under-pressure coach Latapy would have wished for but with the team looking less impressive and void of any real ideas in going forward, one worries for their future ambitions in the tournament.
The Digicel Caribbean Cup Finals will be played from November 26 through to December 5 in Martinique.
1 Jan Michael Williams 2 Clyde Leon (C) 3 Yohance Marshall (6. Daniel Cyrus 46 mins) 4 Kerry Baptiste (17Jamal Gay 46 mins)5 Kern Cupid 8 Trent Noel (7. Hughton Hector 67mins) 9 Devorn Jorsling 12 Julius James 14 Joevin Jones 15 Lester Peltier 19 Keon Daniel
Coach: Russell Latapy
1 Odelin Molina Hernandez 2 Carlos D. Francisco Serrano 3 Jeniet Marquez Molina 4 Hanier Dranguet Cantillo 6 Yoel Colome (17. JValencia 7 Marcel Hernandez Companioni 8 Jaine Colome Valencia (C) 11 Sander Fernandez Cervantes (13. Adonis Soler 78 mins) 14 Aliannis Urgelles Montoya 15 Armando Curumeaux Isidoro 19 Leonel Duarte Pla (10. Roberto Balmaseda 78 mins)
Coach: Raul Gonzalez Triana
Referee: Stanley Lancaster
Assistant Referee 1: Venton Mars
Assistant Referee 2: Graeme Browne
Match Commissioner: Dale Spencer (Jamaica)