Haiti – Cuba beat Haiti 1-0 on Sunday in the first competitive international soccer game in this Caribbean country in three years in the first leg of the CONCACAF Gold Cup qualifier.
The two will meet for the return leg in Havana next Sunday, with the winner advancing to the four-team Caribbean Cup finals in Barbados in February. Three teams from the Caribbean Cup qualify for the Gold Cup in July.
Forward Maikel Castaneda scored the only goal for Cuba six minutes into the second half, driving it high into the goal after a pass from forward Alain Cervantes.
The handful of Cubans in the bleachers, mostly part of a Cuban medical outreach program, went wild, clapping and singing.
The Cubans were among a crowd of 8,000, including Haiti’s interim Prime Minister Gerard Latortue, at a stadium protected by 200 U.N. troops and scores of Haitian and international police.
Haiti played Cuba in Havana in 2002 but they have not played in Haiti since 1996. The absence of a functioning stadium and a general lack of security have prevented foreign teams from playing in Haiti since 2002, officials said.
Port-au-Prince’s Sylvio Cator Stadium was renovated five months ago for a friendly ‘match for peace’ between Haiti and Brazil. Brazil, which leads the mission with 1,200 troops, held a friendly match with Haiti as a gift to the Haitian people who are largely Brazilian soccer fanatics.
In the aftermath of a rebellion that drove President Jean-Bertrand Aristide from power last February, a 7,400-strong U.N. peacekeeping force is in Haiti to help restore stability.
Trinidad and Tobago beat St. Vincent and the Grenadines 3-1 in their CONCACAF Gold Cup qualifier at the Mannie Ramjohn Stadium on Sunday.
The visitors opened the scoring in the 24th minute when Renson Haynes netted for the opening goal. He later missed a glaring opening and his team went downhill thereafter.
A 12-minute scoring burst blew the game wide open and Trinidad eventually cruised home 3-1 winners. Gary Glasgow, just back from a broken leg, scored the equalizer in the 51st minute.
Leslie Fitzpatrick gave the home team its first lead three minutes later. Then Nigel Pierre scored the insurance goal in the 62nd minute.
The two-goal cushion will serve Trinidad as the teams travels to St. Vincent for the away leg next Sunday.
The winner of the tie will advance to the final round of the CONCACAF zone which is scheduled for Barbados from Feb. 20-24. The top two teams advance to the Gold Cup to be played in the United States July 6-24.