Football - St Michel edge St Louis to win Airtel Cup | 10 February 2020
St Michel came from behind to edge St Louis 2-1 at Stad Linite on Saturday afternoon in front of a very big crowd to win a record eighth Airtel Cup.
This was the final that most fans wanted to see as they came down in their droves to witness this Saintly battle and among the crowd was the principal secretary for youth and sports Fabian Palmyre as well as Amadou Dina, the chief executive of Airtel – the main sponsor.
St Michel’s other wins came in 2004, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2013 and 2016.
The other winners of the Airtel Cups are La Passe (2003, 2014 and 2015), Red Star (2005 and 2006), Anse Reunion (2007), Côte d’Or (2012), Northern Dynamo (2017) and LightStars (2018)
This is also the third time St Louis lose to St Michel in an Airtel Cup final after going down 1-2 in 2009, 5-6 in a penalty shootout after the score was locked at 2-2 after extra-time (1-1 after normal time) in 2016.
Saturday’s final was St Louis’ fifth appearance after 2007 when they were edged 0-1 by Anse Reunion and 2017 when Northern Dynamo beat them 2-1.
St Louis started brightly in this match as they carried the game to their opponents and went close in the 9th minute from Gervais Waye-Hive’s free kick which Karl Hall flicked on to their new Nigerian striker James Joseph who tried to loft the ball over goalkeeper Jalyl Servina who tipped the ball over the crossbar at point blank range for a corner.
Two minutes later, Malagasy Tahiry made space on the left to send a teasing cross to Joseph but his header lacked sting to trouble goalkeeper Servina but the St Michel custodian was let off the hook by referee Bernard Camille in the 15th minute when he rushed out to meet Tahiry’s cross but Hall got to the ball before him as he clattered into the St Louis striker as both fell to the ground leaving the loose ball to Waye-Hive to head into the net for a goal but the official, after a moment of hesitation, decided to blow for a foul against Hall which was rather a bizarre decision.
St Louis continued to dominate proceedings in this half and in the 22nd minute, goalkeeper Servina redeemed himself when his defender Julio Brown played a poor back pass to him which was intercepted by Joseph who tried to lob the ball over the advancing Servina but he was alert to the danger as he blocked the ball.
St Michel’s first foray into the St Louis half came just past the half hour mark from a long goal kick which caught their opponents flat-footed as Jude Nancy failed to clear the ball under pressure from Malagasy Evariste who dispossessed him and went down in the penalty area as the St Michel camp shouted for a penalty but referee Bernard Camille was not convinced as he warned the player when play stopped for simulation.
St Michel again thought they deserved a penalty in the 34th minute from Malagasy Hassan Aly’s shot from the edge of the penalty area which came off a defender but they claimed a handball but the official did not budge to their appeals.
St Louis had a final chance to break the deadlock in this match which arrived in the 40th minute from Waye-Hive’s inswinging corner which was met by an unmarked Juninho Mathiot at the back post but he could not direct his free header on target for a 0-0 first half.
St Louis lead
St Louis opened the scoring in the 52nd minute from Danny Madeleine’s free kick which was cleared as far as Collin Bibi on the edge of the penalty area and he thumped the ball at goalkeeper Servina who spilled the shot and there was Malagasy Georges Kalo to punish him and stab the loose ball into the net for a 1-0 lead much to the enjoyment of the St Louis supporters.
St Michel though did not fall back but fought back and took only eight minutes to restore parity when on the hour mark, Malagasy Oliver Livakely floated the ball into the St Louis penalty area and young goalkeeper Gino Pleureuse rushed out but could not gather the ball which was miscued by his defenders and Malagasy substitute Francis, who had replaced Evariste six minutes earlier, slotted the ball home for a 1-1 score which was celebrated by the St Michel fans who were now in strong voice.
St Louis rode their luck in the 62nd minute when defender Mathiot lashed out at Livakely in the middle of the pitch which caused a commotion as players were pushing and shoving but thankfully some of the players calmed down their colleagues and referee Camille then called the two players before he yellow carded them though the St Michel camp was furious as they felt Mathiot should have been sent off for violent conduct.
St Louis should have regained their lead in the 64th minute from Waye-Hive’s teasing cross to the far post which fell to the unmarked Tahiry but his diving header sailed wide with the goal at his mercy.
St Michel get winning goal
St Michel went ahead in this entertaining match in the 70th minute when Norris Bibi weaved his way into the penalty area and capitalised on some sloppy defending as Bibi’s shot went through a forest of legs and goalkeeper Pleureuse failed to hold on to the ball and Nelson Laurence latched onto the loose ball to force the ball across the line to make it 2-1.
Goalkeeper Pleureuse made another error of judgment in the 75th minute from Norris Bibi’s cross and he could not hold onto the ball, but thankfully for him Francis and Livakely got in each other’s way to waste a good chance to increase their lead.
St Louis had to push forward to level the score and had two gilt-edge opportunities. In the 91st minute, Madeleine’s cross was headed on by Hall to captain Bertrand Esther who failed to guide his header into the net at the far post.
Hall had the most clear of chances in the 93rd minute when the St Michel defence slipped allowing Jude Nancy’s long ball to fall to the tall striker but his shot on the turn inside the penalty area flew wide and the St Michel players celebrated another cup triumph at the final whistle.
St Michel manager Andrew Jean-Louis told Sports NATION that his team showed great character to fight back in this match to register a record eighth Airtel Cup.
“It was a very exciting match between two teams of calibre though our opponents dominated the first half but I must praise our players as they did not crumble after falling behind but rolled up their sleeves and fought back and it is nice to win a cup after a long break,” said St Michel manager Jean-Louis.
As for St Louis coach Michel Renaud, he was disappointed that his team faltered after being the better side for long periods in this match.
“We are quite disappointed as we started well and created numerous chances but then made some costly mistakes which gave our opponents two goals but we will have to regroup for our league campaign,” St Louis coach Renaud told Sports NATION.
Airtel chief executive Dina and Seychelles Football Federation president Elvis Chetty presented the trophy to St Michel skipper Alex Nibourette as the St Michel supporters savoured their return to glory and Sports NATION would like to congratulate the Anse Aux Pins-based club on their cup success.