Excelsior High school became the first semi-finalist in this season's ISSA Digicel/Gatorade Manning Cup after two goals from Brian Richards carried them to a 2-0 whipping of Spanish Town Comprehensive in an ill-tempered Group H match that saw three players being red-carded at the Spanish Town Prison Oval yesterday.
Richards netted in the 18th and the 82nd minutes for the Leebert Halliman-coached team, who qualified from the group with maximum nine points from their three matches.
Excelsior were the first to go down to 10 players when Delante Pottinger was given a straight red card for his role in an off-the-ball incident in the 77th minute.
Spanish Town lost a man seven minutes later when captain Owen Walters picked up his second caution. And three minutes after Kevin Nembhard received a straight red card for malicious intent.
Excelsior coach, Halliman, said his team did well to hold off Spanish Town in their backyard and in front of a hostile crowd.
"But we came to play football as that was the aim and we got the result," he said.
The veteran coach added: "The time for the amateurs has ended, now it's the time for the professionals," he continued.
Excelsior, despite not playing their best game, were clearly the better team as Spanish Town struggled to put their offensive play together.
And after a few threatening moves, Excelsior eventually went ahead when Richards beat the offside trap to head home a cross from Kareem Banton after 18 minutes.
Excelsior continued to look the more dangerous afterwards, and mere minutes before the break, Ojai Bedward, missed the upright with a rasping effort from 25 yards.
The Mountain View-based school continued to be the better team after the break, although Spanish Town came into their own after the 65th minute and had their first real effort on goal, but Tevin Thomas' curling effort missed the upright from the edge of the box.
Near the end, Excelsior caught Spanish Town on the break and Banton released Richards who fired a rocket past goalkeeper Sean Paul Desouza from for his sixth goal in his last two games.
Spanish Town's problems mounted when Walters -- who was playing rather erratic after picking up an injury in the 70th minute -- committed one too many senseless fouls and was ejected in the 84th minute.
Two minutes later, the team's top-scorer Nembhard followed after he attempted to kick an Excelsior player with no seeming intention to play the ball.
Richards nearly had a hat-trick at the death but his free-kick rebounded off the base of the post and back into play, but no one followed up play.
Spanish Town's coach Anthony Thompson said poor officiating cost his team the game.
"The Excelsior players were kicking and fouling my players and we weren't getting anything," he fumed.
In the first game of a double-header, Calabar defeated Donald Quarrie 7-2 in an affair of academic interest, but the encounter was highlighted by a hat-trick from Javon East and one each from Ruymayne Marrett, Lenworth Beckford, Kavon Thompson and Graham Pringle.
Tavis Smith and Odane Godfrey were the scorers for Donald Quarrie in the last 10 minutes.
In today's games in Group I, Jamaica College (JC) entertain Denham Town at Constant Spring, while Hydel play Kingston College at the Spanish Town Prison Oval. Both starting at 3:00 pm.
Hydel and JC lead the group on four points, but Hydel hold the advantage by a better goal difference. KC follow with three and Denham Town sit at the bottom without a point.