Chelsea gave host country Trinidad and Tobago (T&T) the perfect climax to the 2014 Guinness Street Football Challenge when they defeated Guyana 2-1 in the championship match of the regional finals at the Jean Pierre Complex in Port of Spain on Saturday.
The game featured the tournament’s two best teams, who would have brushed aside all oppositions in playing unbeaten up to that stage, and after a tense opening three minutes spent feeling each other out, Kerry Joseph would give T&T the lead with a fourth minute strike.
The tall striker arrived just to the right of goal in time to collect a defence-splitting pass from Jerwyn Balthazar and completed the move with a clinical finish into the back of the net. T&T went on to create several other opportunities in a half they dominated.
Balthazar added T&T’s second item in the 11th minute when his initial attempt rebounded off defender Jeffery Newton and back into his path. He quickly slotted the ball home with his second attempt before Newton had a chance to react.
Guyana’s captain Alpha Fletchman gave them a ray of hope when his shot in the 18th minute, from an acute angle, took a deflection to settle at the back of the net. Buoyed by having reduced the deficit, Guyana adopted a more aggressive approach which led to some crunching tackles and a few heated exchanges on both sides but T&T would weather the storm in the final two minutes to clinch the title amid rousing celebration from the largely partisan crowd.
Earlier on the evening, T&T continued their winning ways from Friday with a come from behind 2-1 victory against St Vincent to top Group A before going on to whip Group B runner-up, St Kitts & Nevis, 4-2 in their semi-final encounter.
Similarly, Guyana closed out their Group B assignments with a 2-0 shutout of Dominica and booked a berth in the final with a 3-1 whipping of St Vincent in the other semi-final.
T&T’s win made them the first country to successfully defend their title and also the first one to win a championship at home.
After the victory captain Dwayne Ramasray said it felt good to not only go all the way but to be able to accomplish it on home soil. “I must praise the boys because everybody came together and worked hard and the hard work paid off.”
He said their preparation was a bit poor as all of them had to come from their respective homes, which did not give them the time to work out several aspects of their game, while the other teams were housed together as units. “The tournament was good but there are a few things that need correcting so hopefully that will be done in time for next year,” Ramasray said.
He added that based on what they were able to achieve the members of his team should be considered for selection to T&T’s national futsal squad.
In the third-place playoff, St Vincent registered a 2-1 win over St Kitts & Nevis on the back of a brace from Paul Farrell in the 12th and 15th minutes. Anoy Liburd had a fourth minute item for St Kitts.
Kerron Ford also gave the hometown fans something to cheer about when he emerged victorious in the Skills competition. Ford, who last month claimed the national title from compatriot and defending regional champion, Marc Taylor, went on the impress the judges to be unanimously given the nod.
T&T took home US$4,000 for the win while Guyana pocketed US$2,000 and St Vincent, US$1,500. Ford received US$1,000 for his triumph.