Bankers Insurance Central FC will hang on to the Pro League crown for another season, as the “Couva Sharks” secured their second successive domestic league title today after crushing Japs North East Stars 4-0 at the Mannie Ramjohn Stadium in Marabella.
Dreadlocked attacker Jason Marcano scored twice and Jamal Jack and Kevon Villaroel chipped in one item apiece, as Central cruised to a comfortable triumph and wrapped up the title with two games to spare.
It meant that after the Sharks failed to snare the First Citizens Cup, Toyota Classic Cup and Lucozade Sport Goal Shield, they grabbed the two biggest trophies of them all within a two week spell, as their Pro League triumph followed closely on the heels of Caribbean Club Championship success.
In the process, rookie Dale Saunders became the first local coach to lift a meaningful trophy at Central, as their previous silverware came under Englishman Terry Fenwick and Yugoslav-born Zoran Vranes.
“It is a great feeling,” Saunders told Wired868. “I just want to credit the title to the players, management, technical staff, backroom staff. It was a collective effort from everyone.
“Everyone deserves credit.”
It has been quite a year at the Sharks. The club’s managing director, Brent Sancho, and operations director, Kevin Harrison, are still theoretically under investigation by the Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) for alleged corrupt practises. And the club released two coaches—Fenwick and Ross Russell—changed sponsor and acrimoniously parted ways with veteran captain Marvin Oliver.
But, where it mattered most, Central were clearly a cut above the rest.
Russell must have dreamt of watching Central lift the Pro League title. But he ended up being on the wrong bench when it happened. And his Sangre Grande-based employers waved goodbye to their hopes of a top two finish—and a spot in the 2017/18 CONCACAF Champions League tournament—in the process.
In truth, Stars had the better of the opening half hour and the lanky coach might have felt optimistic early on.
Twice, veteran poacher Kerry Baptiste had items ruled out by referee Rashby McPhee during that period—for offside, then poking the ball out of the hands of opposing goalkeeper, Javon Sample—while Baptiste also struck the outside of the post and team captain Anthony Wolfe missed a free glancing header.
Once Central scored, though, Stars didn’t fancy the contest too much.
Stars goalkeeper Glenroy Samuel was at fault for the opener, although he didn’t seem to think so.
Central right back Kaydion Gabriel’s cross looped upwards after a deflection and Samuel, who was already advancing off his line in anticipation of the ball’s trajectory, paused and then moved towards the ball before pausing for a second time.
Marcano could not believe his luck, as he gently lifted the bouncing ball over the opposing custodian to open the scoring. Samuel, with colourful language, accused his defenders of slack marking.
Stars, who were on a five-game winning streak at kick off, were not themselves after that.
It did not help that their playmaker Ryan “Fry” Stewart was kept on a short leash by Central utility player, Jack, who was utilised in central midfield—a trick first used successfully by Fenwick.
“It worked for us against W Connection in (the Caribbean Cup final in) Haiti,” said Saunders, “and we decided to go back with it against North East.
“In Haiti, we wanted him to disrupt Hughton Hector. And (Stars midfielder) Ryan Stewart is a technically good player too, so we used him there again.”
By the second half, Jack spent more time on the ball than chasing it, as Stars returned in body but not in spirit after the interval.
Stars defender Glenton Wolffe might have been a touch unfortunate when McPhee ruled his tackle on Sean De Silva to be an infringement and awarded a penalty, which Marcano tucked away in the 55th minute.
Jack got Central’s third, five minutes later, as he neatly curled into the far corner from 10 yards after a Darren Mitchell pass.
And Stars found a novel way to shoot themselves in the foot for the fourth as defender Keryn Navarro bizarrely kicked the ground while trying to cut out a routine pass, which led to a rare goal from left back Kevon Villaroel after clever build up play from Marcano and De Silva.
“We really had no doubts about (winning the trophy today),” said Saunders. “We were just on a high coming from winning the Caribbean Championship.
“It was’t a tough game for us. We were focused and disciplined and organised.”
At this rate, the Pro Bowl title might be next.
Central FC (4-2-3-1): 1.Javon Sample (GK); 15.Kaydion Gabriel, 4.Andre Ettienne, 3.Keion Goodridge, 24.Kevon Vilaroel, 19.Nathaniel Garcia (14.Nicholas Dillon 76), 12.Jamal Jack; 11.Darren Mitchell (9.Kadeem Corbin 74), 22.Leston Paul (captain), 8.Sean De Silva (45.Ricardo John 69); 7.Jason Marcano.
Coach: Dale Saunders
North East Stars (4-1-4-1): 32.Glenroy Samuel (GK); 3.Kion Joseph, 25.Keryn Navarro, 19.Glenton Wolfe, 4.Jesus Perez; 21.Neil Mitchell; 8.Anthony Guppy (42.Reon Moore 62), 5.Ryan Stewart, 26.Anthony Wolfe (captain), 7.Kerry Daniel, 8.Anthony Guppy (9.Gorean Highley 62); 40.Kerry Baptiste (14.Chike Sullivan 67).
Coach: Ross Russell
Referee: Rashby McPhee
Man of the Match: Jason Marcano (Central FC)
Pro League results
(Sunday May 8)
Central FC 4 (Jason Marcano 37, 55 pen, Jamal Jack 60, Kevon Villaroel 69), North East Stars 0 at Mannie Ramjohn Stadium;
Police FC 1 (Kareem Freitas 85), St Ann’s Rangers 0 at Larry Gomes Stadium.
Upcoming Pro Bowl fixtures
(Tuesday May 10)
W Connection v Police FC, 6 pm, Ato Boldon Stadium;
Central FC v North East Stars, 8 pm, Ato Boldon Stadium;
St Ann’s Rangers v San Juan Jabloteh, 7 pm, Hasely Crawford Stadium;
Defence Force v Morvant Caledonia United, 9 pm, Hasely Crawford Stadium.
Standings (Tabulated as Won-Drawn-Lost-Goals For-Goals Against-Points)
Central FC 25-17-4-4-59–17–55
Defence Force 26-14-6-6-53-22-48 [+2]
Jabloteh 25-15-3-7-47-34-48 [-1]
North East 26-13-5-8-42-48-44 [+1]
W Connection 25-12-7-6-46-23-43 [-2]
Police FC 26-12-4-10-57-51-40
Club Sando 26-9-3-14-34-52-30
Caledonia Utd 26-6-3-17-27-56–21
Point Fortin 25-5-4-17-23–56–19