Japs North East Stars poacher Kerry Baptiste eliminated his former employers, Bankers Insurance Central FC, from the Digicel Pro Bowl competition last night, as Stars did not have to wait long to avenge a 4-0 thumping from the “Couva Sharks” on Sunday.
Stars finished 2-1 winners in yesterday’s quarterfinal round match at the Ato Boldon Stadium in Couva to earn their first semifinal spot in a cup tournament for the 2015/16 season.
Play Whe San Juan Jabloteh are there too but only just. Jabloteh edged St Ann’s Rangers on kicks from the penalty mark at the Hasely Crawford Stadium in Port of Spain after both teams played to a 1-1 draw. While Defence Force downed Morvant Caledonia United 2-0 at the same Port of Spain venue to also advance.
And there was no shortage of action in Couva’s other Pro Bowl fixture as cup specialists, DirecTV W Connection, twice rebounded from a goal down before going on to edge Police FC 4-3 in an exciting knock out clash.
Combative Police midfielder, Kaaron Foster, gave a rare glimpse of his offensive capabilities with the opening goal for the “Lawmen” as he seized an errant back pass to stroke past Connection goalkeeper Julani Archibald.
It was Foster’s first item of the season.
Connection, who were again led by assistant coach Earl Jean in the absence of Stuart Charles-Fevrier, nearly equalised immediately. But Police custodian Adrian Foncette reacted brilliantly to turn a powerful low Alvin Jones free kick behind for a corner.
The drama switched ends again in the 32nd minute, as Police flanker Clevon McFee eluded Jones with a masterful “Cruyff turn” and sidestepped Archibald, only to lose balance and composure, with the goal beckoning, and blast overbar.
Connection made the most of the reprieve, as Surinamese winger Dimitrie Apai—who finally looks like returning to his best, after an injury plagued 2014/15 season—conjured up an opportunity with an inviting cross that Jomal Williams calmly tucked away at the far post for his 20th goal in all competitions.
Only Police attacker Makesi Lewis, who has 21 goals in league and cup matches, has more items than Williams. And, intriguingly, Lewis has since been relegated to the role of support striker as the lanky Jameel Perry rejoined the squad and claimed the centre forward position.
Perry again showed Police coach Richard Hood’s trust was not misplaced with another performance that married hard running with offensive menace last night. And, one minute before the halftime interval, Perry restored the Lawmen’s advantage with a stylish diving header into the top right hand corner after a deep Elijah Belgrave cross.
Perry should have doubled Police’s lead in the 56th minute but his lazy attempt to round Archibald, after being sent clear of the Connection defence, was easily thwarted by the St Kitts and Nevis international goalkeeper.
That miss proved to be the beginning of the end for Police. Within seconds, Connection was in the opposing penalty area and Apai clinically finished off a Kurt Frederick cross to equalise.
While Gerard Williams converted from the penalty spot in the 64th minute—after referee Gyasi McDonald harshly penalised an inadvertent handled ball by Belgrave in the box—and substitute Anfernee Frederick scored with his first touch in the 78th minute, after a superb threaded pass by veteran Connection playmaker Andre Toussaint to put the “Savonetta Boys” up 4-2.
Belgrave pulled a goal back in the 82nd minute while he and Perry came close to the game’s third equalising item. But Connection held on for the result.
Central could not join their Couva rivals in the next round.
After Central goalkeeper Javon Sample and Stars custodian Glenroy Samuel both distinguished themselves with some fine early saves, young winger Anthony Guppy struck with a tidy close ranged finish past Sample to put the Sangre Grande-based team ahead in the 41st minute.
The Sharks, led by the lively Ricardo John on top, threatened constantly. And it was little surprise when they drew level in the 59th minute, as midfielder Sean De Silva buried a loose ball after a shot from his teammate, Jason Marcano, was fended away by Samuel.
John might have finished off the Stars in the 61st minute, as his deflected header, off a De Silva corner kick, clipped the bar.
But it was a former Central employee, Baptiste, who delivered the telling blow after Stars captain Anthony Wolfe was chopped down on a counter attack by Andre Ettienne.
Referee Rodphin Harris pointed to the spot and Baptiste finished clinically with a rasping strike to Sample’s right.
Stars coach Ross Russell, who was sacked by Central last December, sent on bustling utility player Neil Mitchell and the sturdy Chike Sullivan in central midfield for the closing 20 minutes, as his team held on to present him with his first triumph over the Sharks since his departure.
Let’s see how far they can go now.
North East Stars (4-3-3): 32.Glenroy Samuel (GK); 3.Kion Joseph, 25.Keryn Navarro, 19.Glenton Wolffe, 4.Jesus Perez; 6.Jean-Luc Rochford (21.Neil Mitchell 69), 5.Ryan Stewart, 40.Kerry Baptiste; 8.Anthony Guppy (7.Kerry Daniel 83), 26.Anthony Wolfe (captain), 9.Gorean Highley (14.Chike Sullivan 69).
Unused substitutes: 22.Cleon John (GK), 23.Brendon Figuera, 27.Quincy Charles, 39.Taryk Sampson,
Coach: Ross Russell
Central FC (4-2-3-1): 1.Javon Sample (GK); 15.Kaydion Gabriel, 4.Andre Ettienne, 3.Keion Goodridge, 24.Kevon Villaroel; 12.Jamal Jack, 22.Leston Paul (captain); 8.Sean De Silva, 7.Jason Marcano, 19.Nathaniel Garcia (9.Kadeem Corbin 60); 45.Ricardo John (14.Nicholas Dillon 77).
Unused substitutes: 30.Levi Fernandes (GK), 5.Derron John, 18.Michael Yaw Darko, 25.Elijah Manners, 26.Jem Gordon.
Coach: Dale Saunders
Referee: Rodphin Harris
Man of the Match: Anthony Wolfe (North East Stars)
Pro Bowl quarterfinal results
(Tuesday May 10)
W Connection 4 (Jomal Williams 37, Dimitrie Apai 57, Gerard Williams 64 pen, Anfernee Frederick 78), Police FC 3 (Kaaron Foster 20, Jameel Perry 44, Elijah Belgrave 82) at Ato Boldon Stadium;
Central FC 1 (Sean De Silva 59), North East Stars 2 (Anthony Guppy 41, Kerry Baptiste 67 pen) at Ato Boldon Stadium;
St Ann’s Rangers 1, San Juan Jabloteh 1 at Hasely Crawford Stadium;
*–Jabloteh won on kicks from the penalty mark;
Defence Force 2, Morvant Caledonia United 0 at Hasely Crawford Stadium.