The gap between first and second place in the Digicel Pro League stretched to nine points this evening as Neal & Massy Caledonia AIA stumbled to a 3-2 defeat against rookies Central FC at the Ato Boldon Stadium in Couva.
Caledonia has played one game less than leaders Defence Force but could ill afford a drop in momentum now. The “Eastern Stallions” have won just two from their last five games while, over the same period, the army/coast guard combination has won four times.
The fat lady might not have sung yet on Caledonia’s title chase but she is definitely warming up the vocal chords. It would appear to be the downside to the flurry of transfer activity by the Morvant/Laventille-based club who shipped nearly half of its first team squad to trials abroad during the January transfer window.
For Central, this evening’s result was another indication of the impetus provided by former San Juan Jabloteh coach Terry Fenwick, who took over on 4 January 2013. It was arguably one of the “Sharks” less fluent performances but, as is typical for a Fenwick-led outfit, Central played with commitment and tempo and it was enough for three points against an out-of-sorts Caledonia.
If the game was not quiet fluent, there was at least ambition and thrills as the two teams went flat out for three points.
The less said about the officiating, though, the better.
The match was 13 minutes old when Central winger Johan Peltier weaved his way between Caledonia defenders Kareem “Tiny” Joseph and Akeem Thomas before falling over an outstretched leg at the edge of the penalty area.
Bizarrely, referee Gyasi McDonald flashed a yellow card at Peltier for simulation.
Central got in to McDonald’s good book in the 28th minute as Peter Byers followed up on a Marvin Oliver header to force the ball over the goal line after Caledonia failed to deal with a left side Jason Marcano corner kick.
It was the first goal for the burly Antigua and Barbuda international striker since he joined Central last month.
Caledonia drew level in the 37th minute as Trevin Caesar spun Weslie John in the penalty box to spank home his seventh league goal this season. But, just two minutes later, Central restored its advantage from another corner kick as Oliver’s left footed volley squirmed under the body of Caledonia custodian Shemel Louision and bounced into the far corner.
Fourteen minutes into the second half, Caledonia again pulled level but, this time, the Stallions owed much to the referee’s influence.
When Joseph ran into Central defender Fabien Lewis and toppled over, there seemed to be less malice than the trip on Peltier that resulted in a booking for the striker. But McDonald pointed to the penalty spot this time and Joseph converted it himself for his sixth spot kick in all competitions this season.
Central had the last laugh though as Joseph attempted to clear a headed effort from substitute Rundell Winchester and only succeeded in whacking the ball against Louision and across the Caledonia goal line for the winner.
But McDonald’s final intervention was no laughing matter.
As Caledonia fought for a third equaliser in stoppage time, Caesar won a free kick from Byers and substitute Keyon Edwards rushed in to take it quickly only to be stopped by Central left back Adrian Noel. As the two players confronted each other, Noel inexplicably slapped the Trinidad and Tobago international across the face.
McDonald ejected Noel but then, on the advice of assistant Cindy Mohammed, showed red to Edwards as well although the latter played had not retaliated.
The decision effectively killed off Caledonia’s chances of salvaging a draw. Noel, meanwhile, seemed to have bigger problems as he was forced to make a hasty retreat from the tunnel as tempers flared while he needed a small army to keep an irate and vengeful female spectator at bay.
McDonald’s final whistle went unnoticed amidst the mayhem. Unfortunately, the referee’s overall impact was far from anonymous.
As the dust cleared though, Central had taken the scalp of the Caribbean Champions. And Defence Force was further ahead than ever.
Caledonia AIA (4-2-2-2): 1.Shemel Louision; 12.Kareem Joseph, 20.Akeem Thomas, 4.Colin Nelson, 2.Aubrey David; 7.Stephan David (captain), 22.Miguel Romeo; 17.Akim Armstrong (14.Elvis Thomas 75), 11.Abdallah Phillips (27.Nathan Lewis 61); 6.Trevin Caesar, 28.Sheldon Holder (9.Keyon Edwards 50).
Unused substitutes: 33.Glenroy Samuel, 5.Aquil Selby, 18.Sherron Joseph, 24.Shemol Trimmingham.
Coach: Jerry Moe
Central FC (4-2-3-1): 1.Marvin Phillip (captain); 16.Carey Harris, 34.Fabien Lewis, 33.Weslie John, 19.Adrian Noel; 25.Justin Fojo, 10.Marvin Oliver; 32.Jason Marcano, 21.Darrell Mitchell (29.Rundell Winchester 61), 17.Johan Peltier (9.Anthony Wolfe 60); 14.Peter Byers.
Unused substitutes: 13.Shane Mattis, 4.Omar Charles, 7.Hayden Tinto, 20.Darryl Trim, 28.Hector Sam
Coach: Terry Fenwick
Referee: Gyasi McDonald
Digicel Pro League results
(Fri Feb 15)
North East Stars 3 (Cornell Glen 3, 28, 41), T&TEC 1 (Nathaniel Garcia 31) at Macoya
Defence Force 2 (Kevon Carter 40, Devorn Jorsling 43), W Connection 1 (Joevin Jones 63) at Macoya
(Sat Feb 16)
Central FC 3 (Peter Byers 28, Marvin Oliver 39, Shemel Louision OG 73), Caledonia 2 (Trevin Caesar 37, Kareem Joseph 59 pen) at Couva[standings league_id=1 template=extend logo=true]