Trinidad and Tobago international goalkeeper Jan-Michael Williams came up trumps again for Central FC last night, as the “Couva Sharks” dusted off another internal squabble and a red card to edge Point Fortin Civic 3-2 via kicks from the penalty spot at the Mahaica Oval in the Toyota Classic competition.
The result saw Central advance to the quarterfinals of the knock out competition alongside DIRECTV W Connection, North East Stars, Morvant Caledonia United and FC Santa Rosa.
Another quarterfinalist will be decided this evening as St Ann’s Rangers tackles Defence Force from 3 pm at the Ato Boldon Stadium in Couva. And the Toyota Classic Round of 16 ends tomorrow when Police FC travel to face CNG National Super League (NSL) team Guaya United from 3 pm at the Guayaguayare Recreation Ground and Marabella Family Crisis Centreplays defending champions Play Whe San Juan Jabloteh from 3 pm at the Mannie Ramjohn Stadium.
The Toyota Classic kicked off with a flurry of goals on Wednesday evening and Stars led the charge with an 8-0 rout of Siparia Spurs. But last night was a barren one for fans in Point Fortin as three hours of football failed to produce a single goal in regulation time.
In the opening match of the Mahaica Oval double header, W Connection attackers Shahdon Winchester and stand-in captain Neil Benjamin Jr both missed presentable chances. But opportunities were few and far between as Sando, marshalled by holding midfielders Jeromie “Butters” Williams and 20-year-old Jared London, defended resolutely.
The subsequent penalty shoot-out provoked heartbreak for former Trinidad and Tobago National Under-20 Team midfielder Akeem Humphrey, who clipped the top of the bar. His was the only miss as all five Connection players scored to seal a 5-3 triumph.
Penalties were needed again in the late night match as the “Couva Sharks” failed to match their 3-0 Pro League win over Civic on this same ground on September 26.
“I think (our performance tonight) was more about our attitude towards the game,” Central coach Ross Russell told Wired868. “Civic is a team we’re accustomed to beating up, so we came into the game overconfident.”
Arguably, Central’s problems ran a bit deeper than that. Russell was without his two first choice full backs, Kaydion “Drogba” Gabriel and Kevon Villaroel, as well as free scoring midfielder Chris De Silva and veteran playmaker Marvin Oliver.
Gabriel, Villaroel and De Silva were all injured while Oliver was serving an internal one week ban for tossing a club memo on the floor.
At the other end, Civic, who lost their star forward Marcus Joseph and team captain Andre Ettienne to Central in the pre-season, were also without their frontline attackers, Shackiel “Smeck” Henry and Jamille Boatswain, while team captain Kelvin “Supers” Modeste asked to be replaced at the interval.
“(Boatswain) came 45 minutes before the game and you can’t do that,” said Civic coach Leroy De Leon, who subsequently dropped the striker. “If ‘Smeck’ and Boatswain were there, it would have been a completely different game…”
Perhaps it should come as little surprise that Central and Civic are struggling for fluidity this season with so many internal issues, although the Sharks continue to find a way to win matches.
Whatever Civic’s shortcomings, a lack of appetite for the battle does not seem to be one. On an uneven surface with uncut grass, the hosts were punishing with their tackles.
“Civic did their homework and they came out and stayed in our face,” said Russell. “Some of the tackles were a bit rough for my guys but they weathered the storm and came out winners.”
The Central bench did not strike such a tolerant tone during the fixture.
“Come fellahs, we have to leave in some too eh!” someone shouted from the Central technical area, after Civic striker Troy Moses escaped with a crunching tackle from behind on Central defender Jamal Jack. “Those fellahs come to play. Let’s start to pelt our blade too!”
De Leon, one of Trinidad and Tobago’s most elegant attacking players of all time, was defiant about his team’s tactics. Point Fortin Civic, despite their inability to retain their best talent, have no intention of being push-overs.
“No team is going to come here and say: we playing Civic boy, it will be an easy game,” De Leon told Wired868. “No, it’s not (going to be easy for them).”
Remarkably, although Central enjoyed better possession, Civic conjured up the best chances to win the match.
Modeste released striker Corey Cyrus behind the Central defence in the 21st minute, only for Williams to save with his legs. Seven minutes later, ‘Supers’ again split open the opposing backline with a threaded pass and, this time, Moses drilled between Williams legs. But Ettienne recovered to intercept and clear the goal-bound attempt.
Both teams suffered a bit after the interval, as Modeste asked to be replaced while stand-in left back Elijah Manners was ejected for a late tackle on Civic midfielder Glen Sutton.
“That tackle was really a red card offence and he got his marching orders,” said Russell. “But I just wish the referee (Cecile Hinds) had taken charge of the match sooner to prevent my guys from tackling like that.”
It was a fair point since Sutton might have been ejected, 11 minutes earlier, when he dragged Joseph to the ground in front of referee Cecile Hinds. Sutton was already on a caution. But Hinds opted not to show another card.
It was one of many lenient calls by the referee yesterday and Ettienne also benefited. The Central defender’s lunge at Civic substitute Jared Bennett could easily have led to a second yellow card and forced his team down to nine players.
The hosts had the last chance of the match too, as left back Andrei Pacheco sized up a free kick from 25 yards.
“Two Mackeson if you score, ‘Checo!” shouted Civic defender Kern Peters.
But Pacheco’s free kick cannoned off the outside of the post.
In the ensuing shoot-out, Williams won the toss and invited Civic to kick first. And the “Soca Warriors” standout saved Bennett’s effort while Akeem Redhead blasted over the bar and substitute Bevon Bass struck the upright for Civic.
Central substitute Darren Mitchell calmly converted the winner, after Willis Plaza and Leston Paul both failed to beat Civic custodian Miles Goodman.
De Leon was reasonably satisfied.
“We are a young team and we are learning and I like what I see,” said the Civic coach. “What we are doing now is putting things in place for the future. Tonight was just about the luck of the draw. We are alright.
“It is just some silly mistakes from guys who never played at this level before… But every game we are improving.”
Meanwhile, the Sharks move on with another triumph. Unconvincing on one hand; on the other, stubborn and capable of grinding out a result even when not at their best.
“I think the game could have gone either way,” said Russell. “The skipper (Williams) had to pull us out tonight. I think he did well with the two (Civic) breakaways and then at the end with the penalties.
“He was the man of the match for our team.”
Central FC (4-2-3-1): 21.Jan-Michael Williams (GK); 17.Marcelle Francois, 4.Andre Ettienne, 12.Jamal Jack, 25.Elijah Manners [Red card 67], 2.Elton John, 22.Leston Paul, 7.Jason Marcano (11.Darren Mitchell 78), 45.Ataulla Guerra, 99.Marcus Joseph (14.Nicholas Dillon 81), 33.Willis Plaza,
Unused substitutes: 30.Akel Clarke (GK), 6.Kerry Baptiste, 19.Nathaniel Garcia, 23.Jean-Luc Rochford, 26.Jem Gordon.
Coach: Ross Russell
Point Fortin Civic (4-1-3-2): 1.Miles Goodman (GK); 27.Kern Peters, 2.Garryl Doldron (28.Jared Bennett 68), 15.Nedeon Noel, 19.Andrei Pacheco, 12.Glenn Sutton, 11.Tigana Sparks, 16.Kelvin Modeste (captain) (7.Nickcolson Thomas 46), 8.Akeem Redhead, 25.Troy Moses (10.Bevon Bass 81), 99.Corey Cyrus.
Unused substitutes: 52.Akini Adams (GK), 21.Ronell Paul, 14.Kerwin Stafford, 23.Mickell Charles.
Coach: Leroy De Leon
Referee: Cecile Hinds
Man of the match: Jan-Michael Williams (Central FC)
Upcoming Toyota Classic fixtures
(Saturday November 7)
St Ann’s Rangers v Defence Force, 3 pm, Larry Gomes Stadium;
(Sunday November 8)
Police FC v Guaya United, 3 pm, Guayaguayare Recreation Ground;
Marabella Family Crisis Centre v San Juan Jabloteh, 3 pm, Mannie Ramjohn Stadium.