The cream did rise to the top.
The 2013 Trinidad and Tobago FA Trophy final will be contested between Directv W Connection and Central FC.
The Sharks survived a scare to beat Super League Malabar FC 3-2 on spot-kicks, following a 2-2 regulation period draw, while unbeaten Pro League leaders W Connection were more comfortable when defeating North East Stars 3-0.
The finalists will play for a $50,000 prize next Wednesday from 7.30 p.m. at the Ato Boldon Stadium, while beaten semi-finalists Malabar and North East Stars will meet early at 5 p.m. for third spot.
W Connection have won two of three meeting between the finalists this season. Central won the first meeting 3-2 on penalty-kicks, on the way to winning the 2013 First Citizens Cup. W Connection then won 5-1 at the semi-final stage when they won the 2013 Toyota Classic, and also 1-0 in the Digicel Pro League just last week.
Both finalists ended their matches a man short, and showed the stuff of champions to win on a very heavy surface at the Ato Boldon Stadium.
For Central FC, the path to the final was much tougher. Former national youth striker Gorian “Ratty” Highley twice had Super League team Malabar ahead, before the 10-man Pro league club rallied to earn a late draw four minutes from the end of regulation period, when defender Jamal Jack drilled his shot past T&T national beach football team goalie keeper Zane Coker.
Central played the last 10 minutes without left defender Keion Goodridge who collided with the goal post and was hospitalised after spectacularly clearing the ball. And after Jack equalised, keeper Jan-Michael Williams won the match when he saved Nicholas Armstrong’s shot in the ensuing penalty shootout.
Earlier, Highley touched in a cross ball to give Malabar an early 1-0 lead in just the third minute, but Central were spectacularly level at 1-1 through known dribbler Johan Peltier, who sharply turned and shot past surprised Malabar ‘keeper Coker. Highley converted a penalty in the 48th minute to put Malabar back ahead 2-1, before Jack levelled again.
Meanwhile, W Connection advanced to the FA final comfortably with a 3-0 win over North East Stars, getting goals from Alvin Jones, Hasim Arcia and Celio Guilherme Da Silva Santos in the second semi-final.
But the match was always close and was goalless at the half. W Connection only led in the 67th when Stars keeper Cleon John touched in a powerful shot from right-back Alvin Jones. The match remained close, and W Connection were only able to pull away after scoring twice in the dying stages.
Ironically, Connection were also a man short for the last quarter-hour when Devaughn Elliot limped off with a hamstring injury.
W Connection only made the match safe at 2-0 when Arcia doubled the score in the 90th minute. Laventille-born Arcia, had a brief stint with the Trinidad and Tobago national team in the final round of qualifiers for the 2012 Caribbean Cup at the Dwight Yorke Stadium.
An excellent passer of the ball, he usually plays either in midfield or directly up front for W Connection. He has recently been in good scoring form, and again found the net when he swept in the rebound after Stars goalie John parried an initial shot from national youth midfielder Neil Benjamin Jr. Brazilian midfielder Celio Da Silva Santos then made it 3-0 by calmly putting away a pass from Surinamese midfielder Steffano Rijssel.
FA TROPHY SEMI-FINAL RESULTS:
Malabar FC 2 (Gorian Highley 3 & 41) Central FC 2 (Johan Peltier 38, Jamal Jack 86). Central won 3-2 on penalty kicks.
W Connection 3 (Alvin Jones 67, Hashim Arcia 90, Celio Da Silva Santos 90+2) North East Stars 0