DEFENCE FORCE will play defending champions Neal and Massy Caledonia AIA for a $80,000 first prize in the final of the 2012 First Citizens' Cup this Friday.
Last Friday's semi-final double-header at the Hasely Crawford Stadium saw Defence Force playing the last half hour a man short, and also surviving some early Rangers pressure before winning 2-1, while Caledonia edged six-time champions W Connection by a 1-0 via margin. Midfielder Keyon Edwards scored for Caledonia at the best time possible, in the 89th minute when it was too late for W Connection to reply.
Earlier, Rangers, a Dean Pacheco (coach) work in progress, made enough chances to win their semi-final. But failing to score, they conceded two second half goals, before causing Defence Force some anxiety when midfielder Devon Modeste netted a penalty seven minutes from full-time.
Slimly-built midfielder Jerwyn Balthazar gave Defence Force the lead in the 67th minute when he stroked his shot to goal. It seem like the ball just would not go in since it took a sequence of three shots before Balthazar finally put the ball into an open net.
Kevon Carter then put away a second in the 78th following Richard Roy's cross. Roy is nicknamed "Shaka" for a reason, and the well muscled Army striker left Rangers defender Elijah Belgrave feeling mugged and appealing for the referee's help after being stripped of the ball. Roy found Carter who scored.
Rangers showed some early enterprise and conjured up at least four good chances, including two glaring misses. Midfielder Andrew Smith put a back post header wide from a pinpoint cross from veteran Hector Sam, and striker Cameron Roget also drilled a shot straight at lone defender Cory Rivers, rather that hitting the back of the net.
Sam forced a reflex-filled low save from Army keeper Kevin Graham just about quarter hour in the match, and the hard-kicking Rangers midfielder Mikhail Awai just cleared the crossbar with a typical long range effort from outside the penalty box.
Defence Force had Rondell Elcock sent off after he picked up a second yellow card when ending a Rangers counter attack by fouling the overlapping Jamal Jack. But the Army rallied, getting goals through first Balthazar and then Carter to be in a relatively secure position. Then came the final nervous moments when referee Gyasi McDonald awarded Rangers a penalty after Marvin Jones seemed to handle a shot from substitute Nicolas Castellanos. However, coach Ross Russell's men held their nerve in the dying stages to eke out a victory.
First Citizens Cup results:
Neal and Massy Caledonia AIA 1 (Keyon Edwards 89), DirecTV W Connection 0
Defence Force 2 (Jerwyn Balthazar 67th, Kevon Carter 78th), St Ann's Rangers 1 (Devon Modeste (P) 83rd)