Photo: Renato Campbell scored the lone goal for defending champions Kingston College as they beat St. Andrew Technical High School 1-0 to advance to the final of the ISSA/FLOW Walker Cup competition
The 2017 edition of the ISSA/FLOW Walker Cup final will have the same two finalists as it did last year as defending champions Kingston College (KC) and losing 2016 finalists Jamaica College (JC) advanced to the urban area knock out final in contrasting styles at the National Stadium on Saturday.
In the first game, JC were merciless in whipping Calabar 6-1 in a come-from-behind win, while KC edged the previously unbeaten St. Andrew Technical High school (STATHS) 1-0 to set up the rematch of last year’s final.
Calabar would have been dreaming of pulling off a major upset when they fortuitously took the lead in the second minute after Nathan Hunter headed a free kick into his own net. But that would be the only moment of celebration for the boys from Red Hills Road.
Taking things into his own hands, Jamaica College Captain Malik Howell grabbed the equalizer in the 10th minute when Calabar failed to clear their lines from a corner kick and he was on hand to fire home the rebound from close range.
Nifty footwork from Norman Campbell to get by his marker down the left flank and centre for his teammate Tyreke Magee saw the True Blue take the lead in the 16th minute as JC’s best player took a touch before lashing home to give his team a 2-1 leading going into the break.
It was more of the same for JC in the second half. Hunter found his bearings to head into the correct net, to give JC a 3-1 lead from a corner in the 60th minute, before substitute Gavin Thorpe scored twice in five minutes.
Thorpe had barely been on the field before he hit the target with a strong finish from close range to make it 4-1 in the 71st minute and then slotted home his second five minutes later to make it 5-1.
JC forward Norman Campbell deservedly got on the score sheet when he rounded out the scoring deep into stoppage time, making it 6-1 in the 95th minute.
There was a cause for concern for the Miguel Coley coached team however as they lost central defender Delverone Simpson to a red card after he struck a Calabar player. He will miss the final as a result of his indiscretion.
The feature game was a clash of the unbeaten urban area teams and a battle of forwards versus defense. STATHS came into the game with the meanest defense but were unlocked by the most prolific forward line when Renato Campbell produced a bit of magic to give KC the lead.
Fabian Grant intercepted a STATHS pass and played in the attacking midfield who feinted as if to pass inside to teammate Rashawn Mackison before dragging the ball onto his left and effortlessly slotting home pass Jadean White in just the 6th minute.
But instead of going for the jugular KC went into cruise control as if to save their legs. The organized STATHS team was prepared to keep the slick passing KC team in front of them and play on the counter. Except for one drive from distance from Oneil Hayden, the KC custodian Chadeem Rodriquez was largely untroubled in goal.
KC created a few half chances early in the second half but it wasn’t until coach Ludlow Bernard rang the changes that they really looked like scoring again. Grant should have buried a chance he got when he was one-on-one with White but the STATHS keeper stayed big and blocked the effort as the KC midfielder tired to beat him to his left. White again showed why he is rated as the top urban area goalkeeper when he twice thwarted the efforts of Mackison, the second time being a double save that had the KC marksman placing his shirt over his head in frustration.
In the end however, coach Ludlow Bernard was happy with the performance of his team, especially in defense.
“This STATHS team is a very dogged team, very determined and they really did push us to the limit. I warned my players ahead of the game not to get frustrated about their tactics. I keep saying that we need to be defensively strong, defense is what is going to let us win championships this year. As much as we have been scoring goals, defense is what is going to do it for us.”
Coach Phillip Williams was proud of his STATHS team despite the first loss of the season.
“I am very proud of the performance of the team. We went down early to a very good KC team and we didn’t give up. It kind of changed our game plan somewhat in terms of the period in which planned to push the game. We pushed the game in the first half and I think we got a couple of chances that we should have pulled ourselves back level,” he suggested.
Both KC and JC will have two days to rest before facing each other in the first championship game of the season.