Central FC tasted defeat for the first time in the 2016/17 Pro League season today, as second half strikes from Hayden Tinto and Jerrel Britto secured a surprise 2-0 win for Ma Pau Stars over the defending champions at the Larry Gomes Stadium in Malabar.
The result means, for the first time since 7 October 2016, the “Couva Sharks” end the round of matches outside the top spot. Central now trail Connection by two points, although the former team still have a game in hand.
Perhaps the situation might have been different but for a power outage at the Hasely Crawford Stadium last Tuesday with Central about to face Defence Force. Had the Sharks won, they would still have a one point lead atop the standings.
They still have that game to play against the Army/Coast Guard combination. But, psychologically, coach Dale Saunders’ troops must grapple with the fact that they now have to fight from behind with just five games left this season.
Central used speedy forward Rundell Winchester off the bench today. But, with Kenwyne Jones departed, Marcus Joseph absent, Sean De Silva injured, Jason Marcano jaded and Keron Cummings still a shadow of himself, the Sharks lacked bite.
And Stars, who were without injured veterans Carlos Edwards and Jason Scotland, capitalised in the 62nd minute as Naparima College schoolboy Shane Sandy, utilised as a makeshift left back, pulled a clever cut back for Tinto to blast past Central custodian Jan-Michael Williams.
And the defending champions, who are seeking to become the first team to win the Pro League in three successive seasons, were done and dusted once frontman Jerrel Britto blasted home a penalty in the 83rd minute.
The final score saw Stars leapfrog Defence Force to fourth place, although they trail leaders Connection by 13 points.
Elsewhere at the Barataria Recreation Ground, Morvant Caledonia United suffered their eighth league loss of the season as they were edged 1-0 by a Nical Stephens strike for Club Sando. And Trinidad and Tobago winger Nathan Lewis celebrated his return to Pro League debut with the opening item for San Juan Jabloteh in a 3-1 win over Police FC.
Towering striker Jamal Gay notched a double for Jabloteh while Jameel Perry grabbed a solitary item for Police.
Pro League results
(Friday 13 January)
St Ann’s Rangers 1 (Jameel Antoine 59), Point Fortin Civic 1 (Nion Lammy 75) at Hasely Crawford Stadium;
Defence Force 1 (Jamali Garcia 64), W Connection 4 (Dimitrie Apai 1, 49, Jamal Charles 33, Neil Benjamin Jr 58) at Hasely Crawford Stadium;
(Saturday 14 January)
Central FC 0, Ma Pau Stars 2 (Hayden Tinto 62, Jerrel Britto 83 pen) at Larry Gomes Stadium;
Morvant Caledonia Utd 0, Club Sando 1 (Nical Stephens 12) at Barataria Recreation Ground;
San Juan Jabloteh 3 (Nathan Lewis 11, Jamal Gay 53, 63), Police FC 1 (Jameel Perry 32) at Barataria Recreation Ground.
(Tuesday 17 January)
Ma Pau Stars vs Club Sando, 3.30pm, Larry Gomes Stadium;
Point Fortin Civic vs San Juan Jabloteh, 6pm, Mahaica Oval;
St Ann’s Rangers v W Connection, 6pm, Hasely Crawford Stadium;
Defence Force v Morvant Caledonia Utd, 8pm, Hasely Crawford Stadium;
(Wednesday 18 January)
Police FC vs Central FC, 3.30pm, Larry Gomes Stadium.
Standings (Tabulated as Won-Drawn-Lost-Goals For-Goals Against-Points)
W Connection 14-11-1-2-43–13-34
Central FC 13-10-2-1-26-13-32
S/Juan Jabloteh 14-8-2-4-25-17-26
Ma Pau Stars 14-6-3-5-27-25-21
Defence Force 13-6-1-6-21-22-19
Club Sando 14-5-2-7-21-25-17
Police FC 14-4-4-6-30-26-16
S/A Rangers 14-4-4-6-20-24-16
M’vt Caledonia 14-2-4-8-17-25-10
Point Fortin 14-0-3-11-11–51-3