Match Report - Co. Antrim 0 v 0 O'Higgins FC (Pens - Co. Antrim 8 v 7 O'Higgins)
County Antrim have booked their place in the Milk Cup final...
County Antrim 0-0 O'Higgins (Antrim win 8-7 on penalties) Milk Cup Junior semi-final.
County Antrim have booked their place in the Milk Cup final against Corinthians after a dramatic penalty shoot-out win.
Both teams went into this semi-final with three wins under their belt and the same goal difference of +6. This similarity in stats showed as the game was largely a stalemate.
The opening stages of the game were very cagey, as both teams attempted to get to grips with the heavy downpour at Limavady's Scroggy Road.
Both sides showed glimpses of why they had won all three of their opening games, with some neat passing play but little penetration.
It took nearly half an hour for both teams to find their shooting boots. First Antrim's Dylan Davidson broke well on the left before he fired a shot straight at Luis Medina in the O'Higgins goal.
O'Higgins then hit back with a chance of their own. Defender Sem Zambrano headed just over the bar from his side's first corner.
After the half-time break, little seemed to have changed bar Antrim's kit, as bizarrely they swapped from their orange to red strip. Thankfully, minutes later the rain ceased and the game began to open up.
Antrim's Kevin Cunningham had the best chance of the opening minutes of the second-half as he headed just over from a corner. O'Higgins hit straight back as they went up the other end and David Bustamante dragged a shot just wide of Ross Horner's goal.
Minutes later, Bustamante broke through and smashed a shot into the back of the net.
Unfortunately for Bustamante and O'Higgins, the referee disallowed the goal as the forward had appeared to handle the ball in the build up.
After this scare, Antrim should have had the ball in the back of the net. The ball fell to Cunnigjam again after a goal-mouth scramble following an Antrim corner, but the big defender skied his shot well over the bar.
They came close once more minutes later through Davidson, who undoubtedly was Antrim's brightest spark. He found space in the box but his smart shot was equally saved and caught by Medina.
The Chilean team began to apply their own pressure after this. Horner pulled off a wonderful save after Nicolas Diaz volleyed a sweat shot at goal.
O'Higgins came close again as Bastamante and Valther Vilchez interchanged well before the latter sent a chipped effort just over the bar.
Antrim saw one of their best chances of the half go begging. Subsitute Stephen Mallon dribbed past two players before he put a sumptuous cross into the box, but none of his teammates could get on tje end of it and it was cleared shortly before the referee blew for full-time
The penalty shoot out forced ten penalties, with Antrim's Jack McCourt scoring the decisive penalty to give his side the 8-7 win. Some unsavoury scenes followed as the Chillian players took offence to Antrim's celebrations, it threatened to spill over but thankfully the sitauont didn't escalate amd both sets of players were separated.
The shoot-out was a cruel blow to the team from Chillie who probably edged the game, but delight for the local lads as they head to the final.
County Antrim: Ross Horner, Cormac Lawlor, Liam McKenna, Kevin Cunnigham, Tyler Johnston, Dylan Davidson, Darryl McKenna, Tre Sterling
O'Higgins: Luis Medina, Nicolas Diaz, Sem Zambrano, David Bustamante, Christopher Ayala, Huido Pardo, Cristobal Cruz, Valthe-Nicholas Vilchez
By John Owen