North East Stars needed penalties to finally eliminate Super League outfit Stokely Vale at the Hasely Crawford Stadium this evening as the Pro League team prevailed 4-1 in a shoot out in the Toyota Classic Cup semifinal after a 1-1 stalemate in regulation time.
Stars coach Angus Eve is now heading to his first Cup final at the Sangre Grande-based club while striker Cornell Glen did not do his national aspirations much harm with a predatory strike in front of the Trinidad and Tobago co-head coaches Jamaal Shabazz and Hutson “Barber” Charles.
But Stokely Vale deserves much of the plaudits for another solid performance in its third successive meeting with top flight opposition. The Tobago team might not have the bank balance necessary to compete in the Pro League. But its players certainly have the ability to do so.
Stokely Vale was forced to defend for much of the first half but, once Glen’s opener forced the Super League team to play with more adventure, the Tobagonians were collectively more patient with the ball and might have won the match in regulation time.
Eve is considered to be one of the country’s more promising young coaches. But, after a bright start at Stars, the need for improvement is obvious and the coach is surely aware that his chairman Darryl Mahabir, the owner of the Japs Chicken franchise, is not known for tolerance or timidity.
Stars led 1-0 at the half. Presumably, someone told captain Seon Power at central defence.
Apart from launching the ball into the channels for Glen or wingers Kaydion Gabriel and Micah Lewis to chase, Eve’s defence and midfield seemed disinterested in what happened in the attacking third and were slow to lend support. It created gaps all over the pitch.
Fortunately for Stars, Glen and Lewis did not need much help and the two combined to good effect in the 41st minute.
Lewis, who gave Vale defender Wayne Watson a tough evening, stepped inside a defender and slipped the ball through for Glen. The pass seemed overhit but the former World Cup 2006 attacker lunged to clip the ball home from a sharp angle.
It was Glen’s best moment in a game in which he gave glimpses of his speed and strength yet failed to camouflage a scrappy showing from the Stars.
Stokely Vale came alive after the break led by striker Rundel Winchester, who gave an assured performance between two Trinidad and Tobago international defenders, Seon Power and Kareem Moses.
Winchester forced a reflex save from Stars goalie Cleon John in the 53 minute while Tyrone Manning placed a free header against the bar following a right side cross from Dominic McDougall.
McDougall had more where that came from though.
After a mazy dribble from Vale midfielder Rohan Sebro on the hour mark, McDougall collected the ball down the right flank and drove in an even better cross that Manning leapt to head past John.
Eve sent on three substitutes, including the experienced Kerry Baptiste, in an effort to regain initiative and Stars won a flurry of corner kicks but neither team looked like scoring again.
But, in the subsequent penalty shoot out, Vale had no answer to John who saved kicks from Sebro and defender Omar Charles as Stars cruised to victory with successful efforts by Glen, Elijah Manners, Baptiste and Power.
If it is any consolation to Mahabir, Stars tend to do better against teams that commit players to attack and should prefer a more open game against a Pro League opponent, which would allow the Grande side to play on the counter.
The bad news is that Stars will lose Power, Moses and possibly Glen to Caribbean Cup duty by the time the final kicks off. Eve has seven days to find a back-up plan.
Stokely Vale (5-3-2): 31.Victor Thomas; 15.Dominic McDougall, 13.Jamain Walters, 45.Omar Charles, 8.Wayne Watson, 20.Travis Winchester (12.Darron Williams vc 75); 11.Trevonne James (capt) (34.Antonio Balfour 89), 10.Deon Thomas (22.Onasi Forde 68), 40.Rohan Sebro; 17.Tyrone Manning, 9.Rundel Winchester.
Unused substitutes: 1.Ryan Stewart, 3.Kenton Robely, 37.Shannon Sandy, 44.Carmichael Sealy.
Coach: James Campbell
North East Stars (4-1-2-3): 22.Cleon John; 23.Kennedy Hinkson, 2.Kareem Moses, 20.Seon Power (Capt), 19.Glenton Wolfe; 25.Keryn Navarro; 6.Jeromie Williams, 17.Jayson Joseph (4.Kerry Baptiste 69), 8.Micah Lewis (7.Elijah Manners 75), 13.Cornell Glen, 15.Kaydon Gabriel.
Unused Substitutes: 1.Adrian Foncette, 3.Charles Pollard, 12.Gary Glasgow, 18.Kaashif Thomas, 37. Neil Benjamin.
Coach: Angus Eve
Toyota Classic Semifinal
North East Stars 1 (Cornell Glen 41), Stokely Vale 1 (Tyrone Manning 60) at Hasely Crawford Stadium
*–Stars won 4-1 on penalties