DOMINICAN Republic.- Club Franciscain of Martinique were crowned the champions of the inaugural CONCACAF Caribbean Shield by way of a 2-1 victory over Suriname’s Inter Moengotapoe in a fiercely contested final at the Estadio Cibao in Santiago on Saturday night.
The keenly contested affair brought down the curtains on a ten-day long competition which saw the two teams carry their unbeaten run into the finale. At the end of 90 minutes, Yann Thimon’s 43rd minute goal proved to be the decisive item with CONCACAF’s Director of Caribbean Football Horace Reid presenting the Caribbean Shield to team captain Stephane Abaul as the Franciscain team erupted into wild celebrations at the venue.
There was also reason for Bonaire’s Real Rincon to celebrate as they clinched third place in the evening’s earlier encounter with a 3-1 win over Deportivo Nacional of Aruba. Their goals came from Renault Cicilia in the 7th, Jeremy Frans in the 12th and Cicilia again on the 30-minute mark.
Later on, It was Inter Moengotapoe who got off to a dream start in the feature match, when Romeo Kastiel put them ahead in the 5th minute of play. The goal woke up Franciscain as both teams found their rhythm in what was arguably their toughest encounter of the competition. The Martinique-based club would find the equaliser through Djenhaef Mainge in the 15th minute and it was game on from then.
Moengotapoe enjoyed the better possession of both teams but Franciscain slipped ahead against the run of play and didn’t let up after that decisive moment. Thimon rose to meet a cross from the left side and got to the ball before goalkeeper Obrendo Huiswoud to head into the right corner of the net for the winner.
Both teams went for it in the second half, shifting gears and looking for the opportunity to break the opposing defence. Franciscain should have extended their lead in the 76th minute when Mainge was sent through on goal but Huiswoud was quickly off his line to deny his low effort with Moengotapoe outnumbered in defence.
Tried as they may, there was no coming back for Moengotapoe as Franciscain kept their composure to see out the three minutes of added on time to emerge champions at the end.
Their head coach Dominique Zaire was delighted with his team’s success which puts them into a playoff with the fourth placed team from the upcoming Caribbean Club Championship Finals, for the chance to qualify for the 2018 Scotiabank CONCACAF League.
“Tonight we were tested and we came through to be champions of the competition. It was a very difficult match for us but we expected nothing less. The both teams had been well throughout and tonight it was Franciscain who prevailed in the end,” Zaire said moments after the final whistle.
“It is a big moment for Martinique’s football and for the people of the country. We had the opportunity to come here and create history by winning the first ever Caribbean Shield and we are very proud of this achievement," Zaire added.
"The players have worked very hard and they believed that this could be their time to win something. They never complained and they rose to the occasion. I am very proud of them and now we will go back home and regroup, continue to prepare and look forward to our home competition and the playoff for the CONCACAF League,” stated Zaire whose team boasts of six Martinique national team players which appeared at the CONCACAF Gold Cup in 2017.
Team captain Abaul was in an equally jubilant mood, saying “This was the goal we set for ourselves once we landed here for the competition. It was the first time to play in such a competition for the club and for many of my teammates. There was nothing else on our mind other than to keep winning, playing good football and bringing home the victory in the final.
“This victory is for Martinique, for the club president, for the fans, all the staff members and most importantly for all the people of Martinique. It is a wonderful achievement for us and a great way to end the competition,” Abaul said.