North zone intercol champions St Anthony’s College advanced to the final of the Coca-Cola boys' national intercol tournament following a hard-earned 1-0 win over Tobago champions Speyside Secondary in Friday's semi-final at the Hasely Crawford Stadium in Mucurapo.
The "Westmoorings Tigers" will now meet the "Pres Lions" of Presentation College (San Fernando) in Thursday's final at the Mucurapo venue.
St Anthony’s strolled to a comfortable 5-1 victory in their quarter-final match against the Central zone champions Chaguanas North Secondary. However, the Tobago champions proved to be a more difficult opposition to break down as they frustrated the home team and their supporters for most of the contest before a defining touch by St Anthony’s forward Jean-Marc Thomas settled the affair in the 79th minute.
Tigers dominated the majority of the contest against the dogged and resolute Speyside outfit, and their persistence finally paid off. Thomas reacted first to slap past Speyside goalie Makaya Taylor after the custodian had brilliantly stopped an effort by substitute Joshua Miller.
The goal was a cruel one for Speyside to concede, but it was nothing more than St Anthony’s deserved based on the balance of play.
St Anthony’s dictated proceedings and created most of the clear-cut chances, with the visiting Speyside team opting to play on the counter-attack with their robust midfield and attacking players. The Tigers relentlessly hunted the opening item, but the combination of poor finishing, last-ditch blocks and fine goalkeeping by Taylor initially tamed their wrath.
Thomas brought a smart save out of Taylor in the 42nd minute with a low right-footed drive. St Anthony’s made a habit of firing wide or high of Taylor's goal though, as attackers Theo Crovador, Mordecai Ford and Andell Fraser were all guilty.
Silky St Anthony’s midfielder Aalon Wilson-Wright was unlucky not to have opened the scoring in the 48th minute, when he kissed a precise right-footed volley off Taylor's bar after a meeting a cross from feisty defender Daniel Rose. As the second half wore on, it seemed as though Speyside would be able to take the game to the dreaded penalty shootout.
In the 77th minute, Taylor hugged and congratulated his defenders after Thomas was denied by a saving tackle from point-blank range following a neat exchange in the box between Fraser and Wilson-Wright.
Two minutes later, Taylor was left picking the ball out of his net though, as Thomas controlled and fired a rebound past the Speyside custodian after the shot-stopper kept out a meaty drive by Miller.
The St Anthony’s supporters erupted with cheers, and they could have had even more to celebrate with sharper finishing by the Tigers. Still, they were content with booking their spot in the national intercol final.
In the first minute of stoppage-time, St Anthony’s keeper Josiah Morris — a mere spectator for the 90 minutes — looked to be shaking in his boots when an overhit free kick by opposing captain Kaylon Baptiste just drifted over his bar. Seconds later, another Baptiste free kick was met by a Speyside player whose header went just wide.
At the blow of referee Gyasi McDonald's final whistle, the Tigers were able to set up their meeting with the Pres Lions in what has the potential to be a North/South classic.
On Thursday, either Presentation coach Shawn Cooper or St Anthony’s coach Ronald Daniel will be lifting the coveted intercol crown aloft at the Hasely Crawford Stadium.