By Datti Jinkiri
Brilla center-back Chakib Hocine has been a dangerous asset on set pieces all season, and he made the most of his opportunity tonight. Hocine's 88th minute header from a Carlos Garces free kick gave Brilla a 4-3 win over SIMA and thus propelled them into Saturday's Southern Conference Championship Game. Hocine's aerial ability has now put him on the scoresheet in his last two matches.
SIMA opened up the scoring in the 29th minute. Forward Santiago Patino went down in the box, and the referee awarded the Aguilas the penalty kick. Rafael Santos stepped up and put the penalty just past the outstretched arms of Jordan Bell.
Brilla's number nine, Javen Palmer, equalized in the 37th minute. Garces knocked the ball away after a SIMA player's bad touch, and Palmer pounced on the opportunity. The center forward made the finish look easy, smashing a bouncing ball past goalkeeper Federico Barrios.
In first half stoppage time, SIMA took the lead right back. Bruno Lapa drove at the Brilla defense, played a 1-2 combination with Santos, and put a shot into the bottom right corner.
However, Brilla equalized again, this time in the 49th minute. Garces settled a bouncing pass and bulleted forward on a 60 yard run. The diminutive winger weaved through the thick of the SIMA defense and hit a well-placed shot into the bottom right corner. The goal was Maradona-esque and evoked memories of his world cup goal against England.
In the 75th minute, Rich Bryan's clinical finish looked to have settled the match. The outside back played a pass to Sinclaire Sandy in the box. The winger deftly flicked a return pass to Bryan, who put the ball into the bottom right corner.
However, a dubious penalty kick decision went SIMA's way in the 83rd minute. Their center-back, Malick Mbaye, stepped up and buried the penalty.
The game looked to be headed towards extra time until Angelo Kelly drew a late foul. Garces' service has been solid all season, and Hocine was there to nod his cross into the bottom corner. The Brilla crowd and players were sent into frenzy after Hocine's winner.
Brilla has now advanced to face FC Miami City Saturday night in the Southern Conference Championship Game. Clinton High School will be the venue, and the game will kickoff at 7:00 PM.
Thibaut Bourrier dribbles against a SIMA defender.