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Jabloteh, Cibao FC in CFU Club final

News day / The new Caribbean champions will also secure the region’s automatic spot at next year’s newly re-formatted CONCACAF Champions League which begins in February.

On Thursday, Jabloteh, who grabbed first half goals through Adrian Reid and Vurlon Mills, were held to a late 2-2 comeback draw by Jamaica powerhouse Portmore United. Meanwhile, 10-men Central, the two-time holders, were edged 1-0 by Cibao, arguably the toughest side of the finals.

Patrick Soko scored the decisive Cibao item eight minutes into the second half after Central, who were hoping to create history by becoming three-time consecutive Caribbean champions, lost midfielder Nathaniel Garcia to a second yellow card a minute from the break at the Hasely Crawford Stadium in Mucurapo.

The result lifted Cibao (1-1- 0; 4 points) ahead of Central (1-0-1; 3 points) to take Group A which also included Antigua and Barbuda side Grenades FC (0-1-1; 1 point); Jabloteh (1-1-0; 4 points), with the point earned, cemented their place at the top of Group B, ahead of Portmore (1- 1-0; 4 points) on a goal difference while Haiti’s Racing FC (0-0-2; 0 point) are bottom.

Central and Portmore will contest the third-place match tomorrow from 5pm at the Hasely Crawford Stadium which will be followed by the CFU Club Championship final.

Central, Portmore and the Caribbean’s runners-up — as the region’s second, third and fourthplaced teams — will join 13 Central American teams in the newly launched CONCACAF League which begins in August, in which the overall champions will also qualify for next season’s CONCACAF Champions League.

Jabloteh, who reached the CFU Club Championship finals as the best team of the first round group play earlier this year, had looked on their way for a fifth straight win of the campaign after leading 2-0 at the break.

Reid, one of three former Portmore players in the Jabloteh line-up, fired the San Juan Kings ahead from the penalty spot in the 34th minute after defender Kareem Manning bundled Mills to the ground in a desperate attempt to clear a dangerous Nathan Lewis cross. The Jabloteh penalty specialist left Portmore goalkeeper Shaven Sean Paul anchored to the ground as the ball entered the right bottom corner.

Mills then made it 2-0 four minutes from the half with a glancing header to beat Paul off a right-side Damian Williams’ free kick.

It was business as usual for Jabloteh though, against a very physically Portmore side that forced top Guyanese referee Sherwin Moore to reach for his yellow card seven times, including the red shown to a frustrated Manning who was handed his second booking of the game over the 90-minute mark for dissent.

The game had earlier turned sour for Jabloteh after a dreadful miss by Keithy Simpson, who struck the upright with the empty goal at his mercy just over the hour mark.

Lewis had initiated the counter- attack out of the back before releasing Kadeem Corbin into a vacant Portmore half with only goalkeeper Paul at his mercy.

Corbin, on entering the Jamaicans’ penalty area, forced Paul to commit before rolling the ball right to Simpson who, shockingly, hit the base up the upright.

Jabloteh head coach Keith Jeffrey, possibly expressing his fury, later replaced the midfielder with Kennedy Simpson, and with his team still holding the two-goal cushion, followed with a double-change.

Portmore substitute Jeremie Lynch pulled back a goal for the Jamaicans, beating Jabloteh goalie Javon Sample five minutes from time after meeting a pass from Cleon Pryce inside the box.

Then two minutes later, Portmore’s captain Ewan Grandison drilled in a low shot into Sample’s bottom corner after making contact with Javon East’s cross to level the scores at 2-2.

Jabloteh were rescued by Sample in stoppage-time when he kept out another Lynch attempt.

Cibao’s Argentine goalkeeper Juan Pablo Dominguez—one of three staring changes made by former Barcelona youth coach Albert Benaiges Sala for the clash—also made a superb one-handed save on the night, tipping over Central’s Sean De Silva’s attempt in the first half of the second game.

Cibao later threatened with Ernesto Trinidad’s glancing header off playmaker Charles Herold Jr.’s corner in the 37th-minute.

Central survived another scare two minutes from the half when American Gerard Paul Lavergne’s powerful low drive cannoned off goalkeeper Ryan “Godda” Thompson’s far upright.

But the Couva Sharks weren’t spared seconds later by Aruban referee Ricangel de Leca who issued Nathaniel Garcia — cautioned earlier for apparent time wasting — a second yellow then the automatic red card following a tackle on defender Richard Damas.

The Couva Sharks’ troubles doubled on 53 minutes when Cibao winger Soko swooped in the area to hit past Thompson for a 1-0 lead following a giveaway in the Dominican side’s half by Taryk Sampson and a gallop down the left by Domingo Peralta to provide the pass across the Central area.

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