Another weekend, another win for the Defence Force.
It was a close shave but, at the final whistle, Defence Force was celebrating again as the army/coast guard combination edged defending champions, DIRECTV W Connection, 2-1 last night at the Marvin Lee Stadium in Macoya.
It was the tenth successive unbeaten outing for coach Ross Russell’s men and nine of those results were victories. The level of consistency and the unconquerable spirit within this Defence Force squad has been remarkable for much of its League campaign.
There was no master class last night from the men in yellow shirts, though. In fact, Defence Force was there for the taking.
But, at the crucial moments, Connection lacked the nerve and ruthless instinct to finish off a sluggish opponent.
It was Connection’s second defeat from its last three league fixtures and saw the reigning champion slip to fourth place behind North East Stars, who defeated T&TEC FC 3-1 at the same venue earlier yesterday evening.
World Cup 2006 striker Cornell Glen scored a classy first half hattrick to wrap up a straightforward triumph for the Sangre Grande-based club who announced earlier that star defender Seon Power has signed a one-year deal with Thailand Premier League cub, Chainat FC.
The T&TEC defence simply had no answer to Glen who opened the scoring in the third minute with a clipped close ranged finish after finding space in the opposing penalty area to run on to a clever Kerry Baptiste pass. He doubled the Stars’ advantage in the 28th minute with an effort that deflected off opposing defender and T&TEC trainer Adarryl John.
Garcia, a promising teenaged midfielder, pulled a goal back, three minutes later, with a thumping free kick that surprised Stars custodian Cleon John and smashed off the underside of the bar before bouncing over the goalline. It was the second goal from as many games for the Shiva Boys student.
But Glen bettered the young man’s strike with an exquisite lofted finish, four minutes before the interval, that comprehensively beat T&TEC goalkeeper Darryl Francis and nestled into the top right corner.
Glen is understood to have been close to an international recall for the recent friendly against Peru but might have been omitted to facilitate Stoke City striker Kenwyne Jones.
Trinidad and Tobago’s joint national head coach Jamaal Shabazz was in attendance yesterday and the talented striker may not have to wait much longer for his chance as the “Soca Warriors” continue their search for a dependable “number nine.”
W Connection could surely do with Glen’s talents as well.
The “Savonetta Boys” have scored 21 goals from 12 Pro League matches with 12 goals conceded, which might not appear too shabby at first glance. But take away their two outings against table proppers, T&TEC, and a different picture emerges.
Connection has scored 11 goals and conceded just as many from 10 games played this season, excluding a 10-1 aggregate league triumph against T&TEC over two matches.
And the absence of a cutting edge upfront again haunted the defending champions last night.
Connection made a storming start to the game and should have gone ahead in the 18th minute when Joevin Jones collected with time and space in the opposing penalty box but outfoxed himself with a tame chip straight into the gloves of Army custodian Kevin Graham.
It proved a costly miss as Defence Force responded to race two goals clear with strikes from Kevon Carter and Devorn Jorsling in the 40th and 43rd minutes respectively.
Nothing if not patient, Russell’s troops bided their time and struck when Connection lost its rhythm in the closing stages of the first half.
The first goal was a beautiful team effort with an exchange at speed between Curtis Gonzales, Jorsling and Josimar Belgrave that ended with Carter tapping home a raking right side Jerwyn Balthazar cross from close range.
The second was an individual gem from a set piece as Connection’s Colombian custodian Alejandro Figueroa stood in the centre of the goal but still could not reach a Jorsling free kick that went over the wall but curled away from his opponent’s despairing dive.
Connection boss Stuart Charles-Fevrier responded quickly by introducing Clyde Leon and Neil Benjamin for Silvio Spann and Andrei Pacheco at the halftime interval. And the Couva-based squad did claw its way back into contention as Jones contorted his body to volley home a left side Stefano Rijssell cross.
But Connection could not turn possession into good scoring opportunities and Defence Force comfortably dealt with the long ranged efforts that came their way. Until, that is, the fourth and final minute of stoppage time.
Central defender Daneil Cyrus was operating as an auxiliary striker by then and he peeled off his marker and into the opposing area. Faced with a tight angle, he sent a pinpoint cross towards the last post.
Hashim Arcia attacked the ball but, from two yards, somehow managed to skew his effort wide at the near post.
Referee Neal Brizan blew his whistle immediately after Arcia’s miss and the 24-year-old attacker remained with his head buried in the turf. Jones, Kurt Frederick, Cyrus and assistant coaches Earl Jean eventually coaxed the young man back to his feet and his tears flowed freely as he headed gingerly towards the dressing room to face his teammates.
Almost certainly, Connection’s chances of retaining its league crown evaporated in that sorrowful moment.
And, defiant and unbowed, Defence Force marches on.
W Connection(4-2-1-3): 21.Alejandro Figueroa; 3.Akeem Benjamin, 4.Daneil Cyrus, 5.Elijah Joseph (captain), 32.Kurt Frederick, 12.Gerrard Williams, 36.Joevin Jones, 20.Silvio Spann (8.Clyde Leon 46), 17.Andrei Pacheco (65.Neil Benjamin 46), 14.Hashim Arcia, 26.Stefano Rijssel (30.Aaquil Campbell 85).
Unused substitutes: 22.Aquelius Sylvester, 6.Kemuel Rivers, 19.Joel Russell, 25.Christian Viveros.
Coach: Stuart Charles-Fevrier
Defence Force (4-2-3-1): 1.Kevin Graham; 14.Cory Rivers (captain) (9.Richard Roy 74), 5.Devin Jordan, 20.Rodell Elcock, 8.Curtis Gonzales; 3.Keston Williams, 15.Jerwyn Balthazar (21.Aklie Edwards 67); 29.Jemel Sebro, 12.Josimar Belgrave, 11.Kevon Carter (17.Ross Russell Jr 54); 10.Devorn Jorsling (vice captain).
Unused substitutes: 25.Sheldon Clarke, 2.Glynn Franklyn, 18.Sean Narcis, 24.Jahvon Neptune.
Coach: Ross Russell
Referee: Neal Brizan
Digicel Pro League
(Fri Feb 15)
North East Stars 3 (Cornell Glen 3, 28, 41), T&TEC 1 (Nathaniel Garcia 31) at Macoya
Defence Force 1 (Kevon Carter 40, Devorn Jorsling 43), W Connection 1 (Joevin Jones 63) at Macoya
(Sat Feb 16)
Central FC versus Caledonia AIA, 5 pm, Ato Boldon Stadium, Couva[standings league_id=1 template=extend logo=true]