Portmore edge Racing; Grenades grab late draw against Cibao in thrilling CFU Club Championship double-header

​Cibao FC (orange) versus Grenades FC during the Caribbean Football Union (CFU) Club Championship finals at the Hasely Crawford Stadium in Trinidad on 16 May 2017. (Courtesy CONCACAF)

Antigua & Barbuda outfit Grenades FC, with a late smash and grab double, snatched victory from the mouths of Cibao FC, holding the Dominica Republic side to a remarkable 2-2 draw in the second game of Tuesday’s Caribbean Football Union (CFU) Club Championship 2017 finals double-header in Port-of-Spain, Trinidad.

Tevaughn Harriette first halved Grenades’ deficit, then a minute later an own goal by defender César Danco García with four minutes regular-time put Cibao in a spin—the Dominican side, in the blink of an eye, had surrendered a two-goal cushion in their opening Group A game at the Hasely Crawford Stadium.

Woodensky Cherenfant had given Cibao a quick-fire double within a space of four minutes early in the second half after the Dominican side’s early dominant display was marred by poor finishing.

Cibao’s goalie, Luis Rodriguez, was also unable to mirror the performance of Portmore United’s shot-stopper Shaven Sean Paul, who pulled off a fine one-handed save six minutes from time to ensure the Jamaican side held on for a 1-0 Group B win over Haiti’s Racing FC in the earlier game.

With Haiti now out entirely, the result also meant Portmore and Jabloteh have clinched berth in either the newly launched Concacaf League or newly re-formatted Concacaf Champions League, as does Central FC, the two-time Caribbean holders, following Cibao’s slip-up in the other group.
​San Juan Jabloteh during the Caribbean Football Union (CFU) Club Championship 2017 finals at the Hasely Crawford Stadium in Trinidad.
Portmore and Jabloteh will face each other from 5:30pm on Thursday, followed by Central against Cibao from 8pm with a draw in each match enough to progress both Trinidadian sides as overall group winners who will face each other from 8pm on Sunday 21 May in the Caribbean final, which will be preceded by the third-place game from 5pm between the second-placed team of the respective groups.

The Caribbean champions will earn automatic qualification into next season’s Concacaf Champions League which commences in February 2018.

While the second, third and fourth place finishing teams in the CFU tournament will join 13 Central American teams in Concacaf League which kicks off in August. The overall champion team of Concacaf League for Caribbean and Central American clubs will also qualifying for next season’s Concacaf Champions League.

With his team eying a return to the Concacaf Champions League after a little more than a decade, Ricardo Morris fired Portmore ahead in the 17th minute, smashing in a loose ball past goalkeeper Racing ‘keeper Maurisseau Bergeot from just inside the area after Cleon Pryce, who was picked out by a Sue-Lae McCalla pass, lost his footing under a challenge.

Portmore’s patience in approach had paid off, but coach Linval Dixon’s side were unlucky not to take a two-nil cushion at the break after diminutive forward Javon East rattled the Haitians’ crossbar on the stroke of half time with a diving header off a deep cross from right-back Henrico Ricketts.

Portmore players were technically sound, powerful, confident and extremely patient for long periods while their opponents Racing were desperately trying to avoid another defeat, and the eventual Caribbean exit.

Racing coach Philippe Giuliano had made two changes to his starting line-up from their 2-0 loss against Jabloteh, opting to use Daniel Jamesley and Paul Danshley off the bench while Jean Junior Odiles and Jean Jackson were selected in the first eleven.

Portmore were the better of the two sides though, but Racing did manage a late chance, only to be denied by ‘keeper Paul.

Senatus Ernso Ralph’s downward header between a crowd of players, off substitute Danshley’s free-kick, had goal written all over it. But Paul flung his arm to keep out the ball at the goal-line and preserved his side’s narrow advantage, which lasted till the final whistle.

The same however cannot be said about Cibao although Grenades had struggled to cope with the Dominican side’s intensity, precision passing and purposeful raids for most of the encounter.

Grenades coach Derrick Edwards had made three changes to his first eleven against Central, starting goalkeeper Prince Walter, Ranja Christian and Teran Williams in place of keeper Michaud Barrett, Okeem Challenger, and Lamar Hodges who was left out entirely in the 3-1 loss against Couva Sharks.

But the Grenades coach was forced into two premature changes, replacing Christopher Harvey and Teran Williams midway through the first half as a result of Cibao’s impressive attacking ability which didn’t come as a surprise as they are coached by Mexican-born Catalan Albert Benaiges.

Benaiges was one of the pillars of Barcelona’s success, installing a philosophy at youth level that lifted the Catalan club to new footballing heights and turned out world-class players the likes of Lionel Messi, Xavi Hernandez and Andres Iniesta.

Benaiges lasted over 20 years in Barcelona and had an important role developing players, first as a coach and then as coordinator of La Masia, the club’s world-renowned youth training academy.

Cibao though had nothing to show for their domination until the 53rd and 56th minutes. Cherenfant grabbed his first with a venomous finish into goalkeeper Walter’s far bottom corner after he was picked out on the left by Haiti playmaker Charles Hérold.

Hérold then intelligently allowed a Patrick Soko pass to run through to Cherenfant inside the area and the lanky attacker made no mistake in beating the Grenades goalie a second time.

Grenades though, found a pulse in right-back Stefan Smith. Smith was involved in both goals in the 85th and 86th minutes for the Antiguan side after galloping down the flank in quick successions at a time his side needed help the most.

Smith provided the pass in the area that allowed Harriette a chance on goal, and boy did the attacking midfielder take it with glory to find the back of Rodriguez’s net.

Cibao weren’t allowed to absorb the shock when Smith drilled a low ball into the area and Danco inadvertently directed the ball into his own net to level the game.

Cibao were left with their heads in their hands and the dreadful memories of a game that had victory written all over it. Instead, twice hitting the upright, missing six first half chances, denied five times by Grenades ‘keeper Walter, having a goal ruled off-side, and ultimately letting it slip late, all favoured the Antiguans, at least until Thursday.

Caribbean Football Union (CFU) Club Championship 2017
Final Round
Venue: Hasely Crawford Stadium, Trinidad
(Sunday, May 14, 2017)
Group B
San Juan Jabloteh 2 (Nathan Lewis 50', Own Goal Joseph Mitchelson 74') vs Racing FC 0

(Tuesday, May 16, 2017)
Portmore United 1 (Ricardo Morris 17’) vs Racing FC 0

Table
Team                              GP      W      D     L     GF     GA     GD     Pts
San Juan Jabloteh          1         1       0      0     2        0        2        3
Portmore United              1         1       0      0     1        0        1        3
Racing FC                       2         0        0     2     0        3        -3       0

Group A
Central FC 3 (Jason Marcano 38', Carlos Edwards 44', Nathaniel Garcia 85') vs Grenades FC 1(Tevaughn Harriette 6')

(Tuesday, May 16, 2017)
Portmore United 1 (Ricardo Morris 17’) vs Racing FC 0

Cibao FC 2 (Woodensky Cherenfant 53’, 56’) vs Grenades FC 2 (Tevaughn Harriette 85’, Own Goal César Danco García 86’)

Table
Team                              GP      W      D     L     GF     GA     GD     Pts
Central FC                      1          1       0     0     3         1        2        3
Cibao FC                         1          0      1      0     2         2       0        1
Grenades FC                  2          0       2      1     3         5      -2        1

Upcoming fixtures
(Thursday, May 18, 2017)
San Juan Jabloteh vs Portmore United—5:30pm (Group B)
Central FC vs Cibao FC—8pm (Group A)

(Sunday, May 21, 2017)
Third-place
Group A runners-up vs Group B runners-up—5pm
Final
Group A winners vs Group B winners—8pm

Teams at the Hasely Crawford Stadium on Tuesday
Game 1
Portmore United (Jamaica): 1.Shaven Sean Paul (GK); 3.Andre Dyce, 4.Damano Solomon (Yellow Card), 6.Kareem Manning, 20.Henrico Ricketts; 21.Michael Binns, 17.Ewan Grandison (Capt.), 8.Ricardo Morris (16.Roberto Johnson 87th minute), 12.Sue-Lae McCalla (22.Kemo Gayle 80th minute), 19.Cleon Pryce (10.Maalique Foster 79th minute); 15.Javon East.

Unused substitutes: 13.Kemar Foster (GK); 5.Ryan Wellington, 9.Jeremie Lynch, 24.Damion Binns.

Coach: Linval Dixon (JAM)

Racing FC (Haiti): 1.Maurisseau Bergeot (GK); 2.Laurent Estenio, 14.Jean Junior Odiles,20.Senatus Ernso Ralph J. (Yellow Card), 6.Joseph Mitchelson; 10.Ojulesse Valcourt (Capt) (8.Paul Danshley 83rd minute), 11.Stevenson Guillaume, 13.Louissaint Kervenson, 15.Charles Bendy, 22.Jean Jackson (Yellow Card) (17.Daniel Jamesley 74th minute); 7.Fleurancier Marckenley.

Unused substitutes: 35.Jeune Janel (GK); 4.Philippe Junior, 9.Delva Adiles, 16.Dorisca Markens,18.Jean Pierre Guerson.

Coach: Philippe Giuliano (HAI)

Referee: Gianni Ascani (TCA)
Assistant Referee 1: Dane Ritchie (TCA)
Assistant Referee 2: Kuan Budd (GRA)
Fourth Official: Sherwin Moore (GUY)

Game 2
Cibao FC (Dominican Republic): 1.Luis Alexander Rodriguez Polanco (GK), 3.César Danco García, 5.José Tafarel Ferreira, 7.Woodensky “Babalito” Cherenfant, 10.Charles Hérold Jr., 13.Rafael Leonardo Flores, 15.Rhonald García, 16.Patrick Serge Soko (23.Diego José Ceara Muñoz 80th minute), 20.Edward Acevedo Cruz, 21.José Jáquez Jr. (18.Gerard Lavergne 72nd minute), 22.Earnesto Trinidad.

Unused substitutes: 12.Juan Pablo Dominguez (GK), 6.Oscar Florencío, 17.Alexander Vidal, 25.Fernando “Fandy” Madera.

Coach: Albert Benaiges Sala (ESP)

Grenades FC (Antigua & Barbuda): 1.Prince Walter (GK); 4.Stefan Smith, 5.Christopher Harvey (14.Curtez Kellman 26th minute), 7.Nazir Mc Bernette, 8.Zacchaeus Polius, 9.Tevaughn Harriette, 10.Rakeem Henry (Capt.) (Yellow Card), 12.Blake Thompson, 13.Karanjah Mack, 16.Teran Williams (15.Shakkimba Williams 37th minute), 23.Ranja Christian.

Unused substitutes: 32.Michaud Barrett (GK); 17.Hakeem Joseph, 18.Okeem Challenger, 19.Lloyd Matthews, 20.Tazio Williamson.

Coach: Derrick Edwards (ATG)

Referee: Mario Escobar (GUA)
Assistant Referee 1: Jade Garcia Salamatin (ARU)
Assistant Referee 2: Jairo Morales (PUR)
Fourth Official: Ricangel de Leca (ARU)