A 92nd-minute strike from midfielder, Jardel Sinclair, put an end to Presentation College San Fernando’s 44-year Coca Cola National Intercol title drought and also sank hearts of the San Juan North-faithful when action climaxed in the 2019 finals at Ato Boldon Stadium, Couva, on Wednesday.
After 94 minutes of end-to-end action, Presentation College emerged 2-1 winners following a gruelling encounter which was sadly marred by an ugly last-minute spat, resulting in three players being sent off in the dying seconds. Amidst an explosion of celebration, coach of the newly-crowned champions, Sean Cooper, seemed lost for words after the well-deserved victory.
“Great!” he said, followed by a long pause. “Great! We worked hard for it. Nobody expected us to do this well this year. It’s our rebuilding year. The win is even sweeter having conquered perennial champions Naparima College along the way. More importantly, we kept the titles in South. Despite what anyone says, South continues to dominate schools football.”
In the opening minutes of the first period, San Juan North looked good up front while "Pres" seemed to have a shaky start. San Juan though, capitalised on their fluidity and silenced the hundreds of chanting South fans when Isaiah Chase latched on to a loose ball, in the Presentation area, and notched home the opening goal in the fifth minute.
The "Pres Lions" though, seemed undaunted. Trailing by one goal in the early stages, the Aleem Barclay-led unit buckled down and began to string some nice passes together. Forwards, Ackeel “Hulk” Jacob and Jaiye Sheppard continuously ran at the San Juan defence as they pressed for the equalising goal. San Juan also created several chances but the "Pres" backline stood firm.
With minutes to go before the break, Presentation's custodian launched a long ball which fell to the feet of Sheppard. He sprinted past one defender and then laid it off to a bursting Jacob on the left flank. Jacob rose his head in search of a team-mate and smartly played a penetrative ball behind the San Juan defence, to find a charging Sheppard, who slotted away past goalie Kareem Rodriguez.
At the resumption, both teams seemed to take some pace off their attack. Most of the second half action took place in the middle of the field as Presentation and San Juan sought to conserve their energy. San Juan’s front two, skipper Ronaldo Boyce and Jerry Morris, tried valiantly to break the deadlock but was constantly crowded out by Presentation’s Adica Ash and company.
Both teams had their moments of brilliance in the second period but cancelled each other out on every attempt. The game was also stopped on a few occasions as cramps became a norm due to the extensive mental and physical pressure placed on these young men. However, with four minutes allotted for extra time to go, "Pres" opted for one last charge.
Nkosi Charles collected on the right flank and travelled goalwards. There he would find a surging Sinclair, who made no mistake, hammering home one of Presentation College’s most historic goals in Intercol history. Ato Boldon Stadium exploded in jubilation as San Juan dropped their heads in dismay. Sinclair flung his jersey off in celebration and sprinted to his erupting schoolmates, diving into a sea of celebration.
With just seconds to go and tensions running high, Jacob again burst down the right side and was fouled by a San Juan defender near the corner flag. The "Pres" striker opted to live up to his nickname “Hulk” and confronted the North player, which led to a short scuffle. Players from both teams sprinted over in an attempt to quell the situation, but their presence seemed to add fuel to the fire.
Officials from the Presentation and San Juan camp also got involved in the small fracas. Eventually, the San Juan defender was ejected, followed by Jacob and Justin Cornwall, for their unacceptable involvement. Seconds later, the referee had seen enough, and blew off the heated title match as "Pres" fans stormed the pitch in elation.