On a night that bristled with energy and emotion, Central FC snared the Lucozade Sport Goal Shield trophy after a 2-1 win over bitter Couva rivals, DIRECTV W Connection, at the Ato Boldon Stadium.
There were over 2,000 spectators at the ground and Lucozade might have been flattered to see over two dozen young men fight tooth and nail for its challenge trophy and the $30,000 first prize plus goal bonuses, which—in Central’s case—turned out to be an additional $14,000.
In truth, Central and Connection would probably go to war over a pack of chewing gum.
And yesterday, for the second successive Clásico Couva, it was Central coach Terry Fenwick who was saluting the crowd at the final whistle.
The greater the rancour, the better Central seems to play. Fenwick, a former England World Cup defender and Tottenham captain, suggested that this was not accidental.
“We want bigger crowds and more excitement (in the Pro League) and now that they got it they don’t want it,” Fenwick told Wired868. “… I want my players to be stoked up and feel the rivalry and want to win. The background I come from is all about the big occasion and how you handle it and rise to it.
“Connection just wants to get on with it and not have too much fuss.”
Central has seemed to go out of its way to unsettle Connection this season through a host of avenues. But it would count for nought if the Sharks failed to back it up on the field.
Last month, Central romped to a 3-0 win over Connection in a Pro League fixture with all three items in the first half hour. Yesterday, Fenwick’s warriors again went for the jugular from the opening whistle.
There were three strikers and three offensive midfielders in Connection’s starting eleven although only Willis Plaza was used in a predominantly attacking role. Twenty-year-old Dwight Quintero played in a midfield trio and pressed Connection’s midfield anchor Gerard Williams whenever possible while Rundell Winchester was used on the left flank and veteran playmaker Marvin Oliver was positioned in front of the Central back four.
Once Central won possession, though, there was no telling which of their front six would pose a goal scoring threat. Plaza had 14 goals from 15 matches before last night but Central’s starting team suggested that goals were possible without him. And so it proved.
In the 14th minute, Winchester darted in off the left flank to chase a Plaza flick on. It looked like a lost cause and Daneil Cyrus was surprised by Winchester’s acceleration and aggression. Connection left back Kurt Frederick should have supported Cyrus; instead, he was brushed aside with ease by an opponent with more desire in that instant.
Once clear of Frederick and on the edge of the area, Winchester sent a stinging first time volley that flew past Connection goalkeeper Aquelius Sylvester before he had time to even assess the danger.
The splendid individual goal epitomised the best and worst of Winchester. A forward of his pace could have easily carried the ball into the penalty area for a straightforward scoring chance. Instead, Winchester went for the instinctive, lower percentage effort.
It is either very hot or very cold for the former Stokely Vale striker. Yesterday, he was smoking.
Five minutes later, Winchester turned on to his right foot and delivered a precise inswinging cross from the left flank that Oliver headed smartly into the far post. And it looked like another a rout might be on the cards.
“We scored a goal from nothing to start off,” said Fenwick. “And, while they were reeling, we had a 10 minute spell where we were really forcing the issue and might have had a third.”
Connection punched back though.
Playmaker Joevin Jones, 22, has led Savonetta Boys’ offence for the past two season but, last night, he had to make way for his 19-year-old brother Alvin Jones. And Jones’ first derby goal was one to remember as the right back hammered a free kick from almost 30 yards that made Central and Trinidad and Tobago goalkeeper Jan-Michael Williams look irrelevant.
“The free kick was a great strike,” said Fenwick. “For neutrals it was a great goal although, for me, Jan-Michael, as the best keeper in the region, should have saved it.”
A minute later, Jones (A) crashed an effort towards goal again from an angle on the right flank that would ridiculous for almost any player who is not Marcus Joseph (Point Fortin Civic) or Trevin Caesar (North East Stars). Williams fended it away unconvincingly.
Connection’s tails were up now. But the men in white shirts could make no further headway in the first half.
Fevrier’s men started the second half with some zest as their own winged demon, Neil Benjamin Jr, embarrassed Central defenders Keion Goodridge and Yohance Marshall with his pace but delayed his final cross, which allowed Marshall to knock the ball behind for a corner.
Cyrus headed inches over the bar from Jones’ (J) corner kick. But Central tightened up at the back thereafter to frustrate the defending champions.
“Central did everything in their power to defend in the second half,” Connection coach Stuart Charles-Fevrier told Wired868, “and we did not create any good enough opening for a chance of scoring.
“The effort was good from us but we could have done more.”
The Sharks almost extended their lead too but for an remarkable piece of defending from Jones (A) who went full stretch to deflect a Winchester shot over his own bar after a low, raking Jason Marcano cross.
Referee Neal Brizan flashed six yellow cards during the second half as players from either team fought for supremacy. But the game was never a nasty one.
In the final six minutes of regulation time, there was another surge of goalmouth action. Once more, Jones (A) was in the thick of things at both ends.
First, in the 84th minute, the versatile defender crashed another long ranged free kick towards the far corner. But, this time, Williams was up to the task with a fine diving save.
Two minutes later, Jones flung himself in the other penalty area to block a goal-bound Plaza drive. And, in the 87th minute, Sylvester was forced into a fine triple save after successive efforts from Plaza, Winchester and Marcano.
Fourth official Cecile Hinds signalled four minutes of stoppage time. And Central appeared to have added to that by replacing Marcano with Keon Trim while Williams was booked for timewasting.
Yet, only three minutes and 20 seconds of stoppage time had elapsed when Brizan blew off the match. Cyrus was livid and had to be restrained by Central substitute and his former World Youth Cup captain Leston Paul.
Fenwick, in contrast, was the happiest man since Machel Montano.
“We have put them in their place as to who is the top team,” said Fenwick. “(Connection owner David John-Williams) talks about me being obsessed with him but my teams are the ones that knock him off his perch. First, Jabloteh and now Central.
“Maybe it is he who has the hang-up.”
Fevrier retorted on behalf of his own team.
“I want to congratulate Central on winning the Lucozade Sport Goal Shield,” said Fevrier. “I thought we started well but we conceded a very soft first goal and it put us on the back foot; other than that it was a keenly contested final…
“I have no problem with Fenwick’s team or any other team defeating mine. I am a football person; I know what it is to win, lose and draw—both as a player and a coach.
“That is life; that is sport. I have always showed respect to my opponents… Football is not a game to make enemies with people.”
The million dollar dilemma for Connection is the Defence Force team, which is one point away in the Pro League title race. So, Fevrier is likely to focus on “Teteron Boys” coach Ross Russell for the remainder of the season.
One suspects that the Central threat will not go away easily, though. And, last night, Fenwick took relish in helping himself to another of Fevrier’s trophies.
Central FC (4-3-3): 21.Jan-Michael Williams (GK); 24.Akeem Benjamin, 50.Yohance Marshall, 2.Elton John, 3.Keion Goodridge; 10.Marvin Oliver (captain); 7.Jason Marcano (22.Keon Trim 90), 9.Dwight Quintero (6.Leston Paul 63), 45.Ataullah Guerra, 17.Rundell Winchester; 1.Willis Plaza.
Unused substitutes: 25.Javon Sample (GK), 4.Sean De Silva, 11.Darren Mitchell, 15.Kaydion Gabriel, 27.Samuel Delice.
Coach: Terry Fenwick
W Connection (4-2-1-3): 22.Aquelius Sylvester (GK); 39.Alvin Jones, 19.Joel Russell, 4.Daneil Cyrus, 2.Kurt Frederick, 3.Gerard Williams (captain), 40.Jomal Williams (7.Silvio Spann 69); 10.Joevin Jones; 65.Neil Benjamin (13.Devaughn Elliot 81), 14.Hashim Arcia, 20.Stefano Rijssell (17.Jamal Clarence 63),
Unused substitutes: 18.Julani Archibald (GK), 11.Tremain Paul, 15.Mekeil Williams, 25.Christian Viveros.
Coach: Stuart Charles-Fevrier
Referee: Neal Brizan
Lucozade Sport Goal Shield final
Central FC 2 (Rundell Winchester 14, Marvin Oliver 19), W Connection 1 (Alvin Jones 22) at Couva
Prize Giving Ceremony
MVP: Rundell Winchester (Central FC)
Top scorer: Willis Plaza, Rundell Winchester, Marvin Oliver (all Central FC), Hashim Arcia (W Connection), Keron Cummings (North East Stars)—two goals
Best coach: Terry Fenwick (Central FC).
Editor’s Note: Click HERE for the post-game verbal clash between W Connection coach Stuart Charles-Fevrier and Central FC coach Terry Fenwick.