DirecTV W Connection and Neal & Massy Caledonia AIA settled for one point each last night as the Digicel Pro League’s two most illustrious teams, at the moment, played to a 1-1 draw at the Mannie Ramjohn Stadium, Marabella.
There was probably satisfaction in both camps at the result.
For Connection, it avoided the prospect of a third straight defeat to the “Eastern Stallions” who beat them in the 2012 Caribbean Cup final and en route to the 2012 First Citizens Cup.
While Caledonia might be pleased for its first point of the season after an opening defeat to North East Stars, last month, and after trailing early last night.
There were moments of clever interplay from either team and the two goals, and particularly Andrei Pacheco’s thunderbolt, must have thilled patrons.
And yet, there still seemed to be an absence of bite or intensity.
Former San Juan Jabloteh coach and ex-England international Terry Fenwick once remarked that champions do not wait for an opponent to make its move; they hit first.
Fenwick, of course, was never one to pull his punches. His Jabloteh was a fierce, tireless opponent.
Defence Force, at its best, can similarly test a rival’s will to win with a game built on energy and ruthlessness.
There is much to admire about the attempts at sophisticated ball movement by Caledonia and Connection. But when they cancel each other out, the field closer resembles a giant chessboard than a battle zone and one wonders if the mutual respect between the two teams is too entrenched.
At times last night, it looked as though the Caribbean’s top two teams had taken each other out on a date.
There was one meaty tackle and it was so out of character that the tackler and the recipient, Connection’s Silvio Spann and Caledonia’s Walter Moore respectively, both limped off the field within minutes.
Otherwise, Caledonia and Connection held their shape in a show of tactical discipline and patience, on and off the ball, which made for decent drama but offered little to action junkies.
The game seemed to be heading down a different path, early on, when Pacheco put Connection ahead with a thumping 35-yard free kick that clipped the far post on its way in.
Caledonia goalkeeper Glenroy Samuel could not have been more comprehensively beaten if he was sitting in the stands.
Caledonia might have responded within minutes as right back Kareem Joseph belied his “Tiny” frame and alias with a stinging effort that shook the Connection bar. The equaliser eventually came, three minutes into the second half, from a flowing build-up as Nathan Lewis drove across the body of goalkeeper Aquelius Sylvester and into the far corner from just inside the opposing box.
It is a minor miracle that Samuel and Sylvester were only beaten once each.
Sylvester was deputising for Connection captain Jan-Michael Williams, who was one of a dozen players late returning from Caribbean Cup duty in St Kitts and Nevis, and made one fine save with his legs from Caledonia winger Trayon Bobb in the second half. But he looked to be in much less control of the situation when he allowed efforts from Keyon Edwards and Lewis to squirm under his arms and watched anxiously as the ball rolled wide on either occasion.
At least, Sylvester was trying orthodox saves.
Samuel’s exuberant and unsuccessful charges outside his penalty area have become a comical routine that will surely cost Caledonia sooner or later.
Yesterday, Samuel kicked air on one dash outside the box but was bailed out by a retreating Caledonia defender. On the second occasion, the young goalkeeper clattered into Connection substitute Jerrel Britto and was fortunate for referee Neal Brizan’s leniency.
Samuel did show his worth, in the 67th minute, with a flying save to deny Connection striker Shahdon Winchester’s exquisite volley while, ten minutes from time, he did well to keep out a deflected Pacheco free kick.
By then, a goal from either team would have been harsh.
Caledonia seemed to lose momentum after rejuvenated playmaker Conrod Smith was replaced in the 67th minute and left the Morvant/Laventille side short on guile. The Stallions had decided to rest Densill Theobald, after his exertions in St Kitts, only to be let down by Ataullah Guerra who turned up late and was banished to the stands.
Connection, also hampered by recent international games, used Clyde Leon and Joevin Jones off the bench while captain Williams, Daneil Cyrus, Gerard Williams did not feature.
Perhaps apprehension from either team was understandable with such experimental line-ups.
Inevitably, the stakes will be higher when Caledonia and Connection meet again. Fans will hope the intensity of the occasion rises accordingly.
W Connection (4-1-2-3): 22.Aquelius Sylvester; 13.Kern Cupid (Capt), 3.Akeem Benjamin, 19. Joel Russell, 3.Kemuel Rivers (36.Joevin Jones 46); 25.Christian Viveros; 20.Silvio Spann (8.Clyde Leon 56), 29.Jomal Williams (31.Jerrel Britto 67); 14.Hashim Arcia, 40.Shahdon Winchester, 17.Andrei Pacheco.
Unused substitutes: 21.Andre Marchan, 4.Daneil Cyrus, 16.Andre Quashie, 35.Anthony Parris.
Coach Stuart Charles-Fevrier
Caledonia (4-4-1-1): 33.Glenroy Samuel ; 12.Kareem Joseph, 3.Nuru Muhammad, 4.Colin Nelson, 2.Aubrey David ; 27.Nathan Lewis, 10.Conrod Smith (28.Sheldon Holder 67), 7.Stephan David (Capt), 15.Walter Moore (13.Trayon Bobb 57); 9.Keyon Edwards; 23.Jamal Gay.
Unused substitutes : 34.Colin Edwards, 5.Aquil Selby, 6.Trevin Caesar, 24.Kemron Purcell, 19.Odelle Armstrong.
Coach Jerry Moe
Digicel Pro League
(Fri Oct 19)
Central FC 1 (Anthony Wolfe 66 pen), Police FC 0 at Marabella
Caledonia AIA 1 (Nathan Lewis 48), W Connection 1 (Andrei Pacheco 16) at Marabella
(Sat 20 October 2012)
St Ann’s Rangers v T&TEC, 5 pm, Hasely Crawford Stadium
Defence Force v North East Stars, 7 pm, Hasely Crawford Stadium