Antigua and Cuba qualify to Digicel Finals: Entertaining draw completes Digicel Cup Qualification process
Antigua & Barbuda and Cuba played out an entertaining 0-0 draw in the famous ARG to ensure they both qualified to the Digicel Cup Finals in the final game of the qualification process for the Digicel Caribbean Cup.
As long standing bitter rivals Cuba and Antigua & Barbuda started the game at a quick pace. With only 4 minutes gone the lethal little Cuban midfielder Campanioni should have opened the scoring when the long delivery throw from Cantillo, reminiscent of a Rory Delap bullet like throw into the box for Stoke in the English Premier League, found the little man in acres of space but his header was high and wide.
Buoyed on by a massive home crowd on a glorious Sunday afternoon, Antigua & Barbuda edged forward and were unlucky not to go ahead when Akeem Thomas had his header cleared off the line after he met the inch perfect corner with power and conviction.
The large crowd were on their feet after 25 minutes when Jamie Thomas seemed to be hauled down by Campanioni only for Jamaican Referee Courtney Campbell to adjudge against the Antiguan player and show him a yellow card for simulation. While no one else in the large crowd agreed with Campbell’s decision that Thomas had dived, it mattered little as the free out eased the pressure on Cuba.
Cuba took heed of this warning and started to dominate possession with more focus on moving the ball quicker with some great movement from their midfielders and linking with their front men. On 36 minutes Isidoro found himself in front of Antiguan keeper Decastro but his lobbed effort bounced off the cross bar and away. Isidoro again had a chance after a great cut back from strike partner Duarte Pla but his effort was blocked on the line by Mack and cleared away.
Duarte Pla had the chance of the match on 41 minutes when he raced clear from the half way line for a one on one with Decastro. The Antiguan keeper held his nerve, stood tall and smothered Duarte Pla’s effort to the relief of the screaming home crowd.
The second half started at the same quick pace and the Antiguan crowd did not have long to wait until their team had the ball in the net after a lovely strike from Jamie Thomas flew in off the post, only for Campbell to rule out any celebrations as he had called for an infringement moments before Thomas’s effort.
On 57 minutes Campanioni was unlucky to see his glanced header zip inches past Decastro’s post as Cuba looked to exploit the weakness of left back Karanja Mack who obviously had forgotten to eat his cabbage in his pre match meal.
With both sides wanting to take the initiative the quality of play was good as the technical ability of both sides showed through. Both coaches stood by the side of the technical area willing on their players and trying to ensure that one small change or movement would lead to the crucial opening goal.
Despite some nice possession play from both sides, neither team could carve open the opposition as they closed out the remaining moments content to match each others play and allow the clock to run down to ensure a tied game.
The result left both sides standing alone on top of Group G on 5 points each with Suriname in third position a point behind. The final placements ensured that Cuba and Antigua & Barbuda qualify to the Digicel Cup Finals where they will join hosts Martinique, holders Jamaica, and other qualified teams Guyana, Trinidad & Tobago, Grenada and Guadeloupe.
Antigua & Barbuda: 18. Keita Decastro 17 George Dublin (Captain) 5 Dave Carr 4 Karanja Mack 6 Joshua Parker 13 Mikele Leightwood 12 Justin Cochrane 16 Peter Byers(9 Kerry Skepple 82 mins) 14 Randolph Burton (8. Quinton Griffith 90 mins) 11. Jamie Thomas (7. Gason Gregory 75 mins) 20 Akeem Thomas
Coach: Rowan Benjamin
Cuba: 1. Odelin Hernandez 3 Yenier Molina 16 Reysnader Cervantes 4 Hanier Cantillo 8 Jaine Valencia (Captain) 14 Alianni Montoya 2 Carlos Francisco Serrano 15 Armando Isidoro 7. Marcel Campanioni (7. Dagoberto Beckles 90 mins) 11. Sander Cervantes (13. Adonis Soler mins)19. Leonel Duarte Pla (10. Roberto Balmaseda 70 mins)
Coach: Raul Triana
Referee: Courtney Campbell (Jamaica)
Assistant Referee 1: Diom Neil (T&T)
Assistant Referee 2: Mentor Baptiste (T&T)
Match Commissioner : Victor Daniels (Grenada)