Digicel Caribbean Cup Finals: Martinique 0 vs Cuba 1

Cuba made certain of yet another semi final spot and the first Caribbean berth in the CONCACAF Gold Cup 2011 with a solid performance with nine men and a 1-0 win over a lethargic Martinique here in Stade Aliker Dillon in Martinique.

In what was a clash of the titans for Group H, a large crowd turned up in Dillon Martinique to witness the contenders for a semi final berth in action.

Cuba seemed more threatening at the start and on 12 minutes Duarte Pla was through on goal only to be thwarted by a superb save from Heurlie in the French goal.

Martinique gave the home support some cheer by looking good in attack and moving the ball well between Gustan and Reuperne in particular, but never seemed likely to get in behind the Cubans well organized defence.

But it was the big Cuban centre half stalwart Molina who opened the scoring on 28 minutes when he rose between two defenders at the near post to power home a Isidoro corner kick to leave the home crowned stunned in silence.

Cuba looked in control and Cervantes brought the best out of Heurlie with a fine save at his near post on 33 minutes. Things seemed to heat up and the tackles started to fly in and on 38 minutes Cuban star Campanioni was sent off for an off the ball incident as Reuperne rolled on the ground as if shot in the leg by a sniper from the roof.  This did gave the French the impetus they required and Clement whipped in two wicked crosses from the left that were unlucky not to be slotted home.

It was Carole who had the best chance for the French on the stroke of half time when he cracked his shot from the edge of the box but it couldn’t beat Hernandez in the Cuban goal.

The second half started brightly but on 54 minutes Cuba were reduced to nine men when Cantillo was sent off in bizarre circumstances after he remonstrated with the referee who booked him for time wasting as he cleaned the ball for a long throw in.

Cuba organized quickly making two substitutions and going into a 4-3-1 formation but with the heavy numerical advantage Martinique began to seize control of the flow of the game.

The Cuban players were working tirelessly while the French were wasteful and unimaginative with all their added advantages and seemed to lack any idea of how to get about creating a chance for an equalizer. Instead lone striker Balmaseda looked likely to score for Cuba on the breakaways.

With time running out, Martinique were looking more and more desperate and the sense of frustration was emanating from the large home support who demanded and expected an equalizer. With ten minutes remaining Martinique moved to a 2-3-5 formation and when Gustan knocked the ball square across goal with no Martinique player in sight, it summed up the lack of a killer instinct in this side.

The clock eventually ran down and coach Germe from Martinique would surely have to be asked some hard questions after failing to outsmart the tactical approach the Cubans took when they were reduced to nine men so early on in the second half.

The result now leaves the Cubans guaranteed of qualification to the Digicel semi finals, with Martinique hoping to beat Trinidad & Tobago on Tuesday and another strong result from Cuba over Grenada to have a chance.

Group H takes shape in the Digicel finals while Group I will have a clearer picture tomorrow night.