DAVID SMITH - Thursday, May 26, 2011
The crew of Americans at IFK Mariehamn saw their Finnish Cup run finally come to a screeching halt on Thursday afternoon, giving up three goals at home to be unceremoniously dumped out of the competition by KuPS.
Both Josh Wicks and Mason Trafford played the full 90 minutes, while Giuseppe Funicello came on in the 75th minute for central midfielder Amos Ekhalie as the team tried to erase their multi-goal deficit.
The two teams had faced exactly one week before on the opposite side of the country, with KuPS withstanding a barrage to barely come out ahead after 90 minutes.
There would be no question about which team deserved the win one week later, as the visitors held the advantage from almost the opening kick until the final whistle.
KuPS needed just six minutes to jump to a 1-0 lead, after a free kick just outside the area resulting from a handball call on a Mariehamn defender deflected through the wall, and by chance landed at the feet of Dickson Nwakaeme, who put it away from short range for the shock lead.
KuPS used their homefield advantage to maintain a slight control of the game from thereafter, however just couldn't chomp down when they needed, with their attacks more akin to a mere polite nibble.
The Islanders were done in a second time by a free kick for their opponents' second score, this time as Miikka Ilo fired through the wall form 22 yards out in the 64th minute, effectively ending Mariehamn's previous hope for a berth in the final.
Funicello entered the game with 15 minutes left, presumably to add a set of fresh legs as the team pushed forward to make up the deficit, however KuPS added a third goal four minutes later to silence the crowd.
A counter-attack saw Ilo pus up the left side and lay the ball off to Nwakaeme at the edge of the penalty area, and the Nigerian forward made no waste of his shot, blasting it just inside the far corner for the final 3-0 scoreline.
Mariehamn have barely any time to regroup, as they will hit the road to visit Vaasa PS on Sunday in their last game before a much-needed 11-day pause for the international break.