NLCL 24: Jean-Marc and Chase-Charles get hattricks in lopsided battle of AIAs


If Caledonia AIA ever considered opening a case for copyright infringement against burgeoning football academy and namesake AIA (Athletic International Academy), it might be considerably weakened by last night’s meeting between the two AIAs at the Eddie Hart Recreational Ground in Tacarigua.

The occasion was the NLCL U19 Community Cup and the result was a lopsided 8-0 result in favour of AIA—ahmm, the new version.

AIA attacking midfielder Jaydon Critchlow (left) runs at the Caledonia AIA defence during NLCL U19 Community Cup action at the Eddie Hart ground on 4 January 2023.
Photo: Wired868

Attackers Jean-Marc Thomas and Jahdel Chase-Charles netted hattricks and substitutes Dalon Sankar and Donte Gordon got one goal apiece, with AIA head coach Adrian Romain easing off the gas in the second half.

“We were more organised—we came to play,” Romain told Wired868. “Cale [have] a lot of talent but nevertheless we came to play football. We were at home and the people that came out, I must say it was really a good show [for them].”

One coach’s “good show”, in this case, was another’s nightmare. And Caledonia’s problems clearly started long before the opening whistle. At the designated kickoff time, Caledonia coach Akel Baig had eight players available—and none was a goalkeeper.

“We all know the traffic to the east is a huge challenge,” said Baig. “The traffic issue is something huge in the country.”

Caledonia AIA midfielder Khidr Atiba (right) tries to turn away from AIA midfielder Angel Aragones during NLCL U19 Community Cup action at the Eddie Hart ground on 4 January 2023.
Photo: Wired868

It is a fair point. But with four-fifths of the Caledonia team (at least of their starting team yesterday) coming from Malick Secondary and the match scheduled for 5.45pm, does it really take more than three hours to get from Malick to Tacarigua?

The NLCL competition provides a 15-minute grace period for latecomers and, with the start delayed, Baig might have been relieved to see goalkeeper Omarion Worrell and flanker Keiron Hinds appear in time for kickoff.

Caledonia started with 10 men, then. And by the time their 11th player, defender Isaiah David, showed up, they were already three goals behind.

AIA, faced with an opponent that rarely put pressure on the ball or suggested a plan of regaining possession, took full advantage.

AIA attacker Dalon Sankar (right) flicks a header towards goal while midfielder Angel Aragones (centre) shadows the play during NLCL U19 Community Cup action against Caledonia AIA at the Eddie Hart ground on 4 January 2023.
Photo: Wired868

Left back Kadedon Marcelle had enough space down the flank to use the outside of his right boot to cross invitingly towards the penalty spot, where forward Thomas prodded home in the third minute.

Chase-Charles strode into the penalty area to double their lead in the 10th minute with a poke into the far corner—so nonchalantly that he might as well have been wearing fuzzy bathroom slippers.

Thomas’ next goal took the cake. He collected the ball in the opposing penalty area with his back to goal. There were three Caledonia defenders in attendance.

AIA playmaker Jahdel Chase-Charles (right) instigates an attack for his team during NLCL U19 Community Cup action against Caledonia AIA at the Eddie Hart ground on 4 January 2023.
Photo: Wired868

Yet, inexplicably, the St Anthony’s College student was able to turn and pick his corner with a shot past the woefully unprotected Worrell.

“Because of the school break and festive season, we had a little challenge in terms of getting the boys out to training, to build the team the way that we would want to,” said Baig, who disagreed about whether a team stuffed with Malick Secondary players—and Malick coach Anthony Bartholomew on his bench—should come with some level of in-built cohesion.

“Malick is one thing, Caledonia is a different organisation with a different style.”

AIA right back Mattyas Charles (left) holds off Caledonia AIA attacker Antonio Sealey during NLCL U19 Community Cup action at the Eddie Hart ground on 4 January 2023.
Photo: Wired868

Indeed.

St Anthony’s attacker Theo Crovador is part of the current Trinidad and Tobago National Under-20 team pool but he opted to offer his services to AIA yesterday evening, and he wore the armband.

It was a criminal misuse of Crovador’s ability—like using a knife and fork at the doubles stand.

Romain eventually withdrew his captain in the 72nd minute and thankfully he did not come out on the wrong side of some meaty Caledonia tackles. Crovador did not get on the scoresheet, although there was a clever assist for Thomas’ third goal in the first half.

AIA captain Theo Crovador (left) prepares to run beyond Caledonia AIA full back Keston Singh after flicking the ball over the defender during NLCL U19 Community Cup action at the Eddie Hart ground on 4 January 2023.
Photo: Wired868

But let’s just say that Caledonia left back Keston Singh certainly felt the impact of Crovador’s pace and tricks.

Caledonia midfielder Malachi Woodley (a Malick standout last season) and his teammate Khidr Atiba (an East Mucurapo schoolboy) can hold their own in this age group. David competed at the Concacaf Under-15 Championship last August and is in the current National Under-17 pool.

But if “talent is not everything” was a football match, it was yesterday’s contest at Eddie Hart.

Stand-in Caledonia AIA goalkeeper Leikwon David (left) and midfielder Khidr Atiba (right) try to keep tabs on AIA substitute Seon Punnette during NLCL U19 Community Cup action at the Eddie Hart ground on 4 January 2023.
Photo: Wired868

“It was a disappointing result—I think in the game I saw a lot of good things in terms of how we tried to play,” said Baig, who ended the match with an outfield player in goal as Worrell felt unwell. “But we didn’t execute it well as we are now putting the team together. So, it is a little challenge to execute how we would like to play as Caledonia AIA.

“We are not downtrodden by the result. We would build and build and improve.”

For Romain, the result moved AIA to the top of the standings after three rounds—although they are just one point clear of QPCC – City FC, who have a game in hand.

AIA attacking midfielder Jaydon Critchlow (foreground) draws a rash challenge from Caledonia AIA defender Hakeem Benjamin–and a penalty kick!–during NLCL U19 Community Cup action at the Eddie Hart ground on 4 January 2023.
Photo: Wired868

“We played good football [and] we sent the team home in the first half,” said Romain. “We took our chances and that is something we didn’t do [in our second fixture] against SMS. Another clean sheet—third in a row, which is important to us.

“We had good spurts of game play and overall we’re improving as a group.”

Baig, who is also the Northern Football Association (NFA) general secretary and a former Caledonia AIA player, vowed that his charges would recover and, tongue-in-cheek, warned AIA to expect a backlash too.

Caledonia AIA midfielder Khidr Atiba (right) tries to take the ball beyond AIA forward Jean-Marc Thomas during NLCL U19 Community Cup action at the Eddie Hart ground on 4 January 2023.
Photo: Wired868

“We have a very good team—it’s just to build on the chemistry,” he said. “I think we will do well in the league despite losing our first two games and the manner that we lost [yesterday]. I think we have a very good team and I am very confident that we will at least finish in the top three in the league.

“[…] We congratulate AIA on their victory, but just let them know we are the real AIA, so [in the] second round we will give them back what they gave to us. We promise them that!”

That would take some doing. But it is worth pencilling in the AIA v AIA return date then.

(Teams)

AIA (4-2-3-1): 1.Joash Harris (GK); 4.Mattyas Charles (13.Matthias Motilal 82), 3.Khaden Caraby, 19.Isaiah Isaac, 18.Kadedon Marcelle; 16.Abdulla Tariq (17.Angel Aragones 46), 15.Khadell Campbell (6.Jaheshua Ferguson 82); 5.Nicquan Galera (11.Jaydon Critchlow 46), 8.Jahdel Chase-Charles (10.Dalon Sankar 65), 7.Theo Crovador (captain) (12.Donte Gordon 72); 9.Jean-Marc Thomas (14.Seon Punnette 65).

Coach: Adrian Romain

Caledonia AIA (4-5-1): 30.Omarion Worrell (GK) (9.Leikwon David 46); 13.Kareem Richards, 17.Hakeem Benjamin, 5.Isaiah David, 11.Keston Singh; 12.Keiron Hinds, 27.Zachery Joseph, 16.Malachi Woodley, 18.Khidr Atiba, 21.Ronaldinho Richards; 7.Antonio Sealey.

Coach: Akel Baig

NLCL U19 Community Cup

(4 January 2023)

Group A

AIA 8 (Jean-Marc Thomas 3, 12, 34, Jahdel Chase-Charles 10, 15, 60, Dalon Sankar 77, Donte Gordon 89 pen), Caledonia AIA 0 at Eddie Hart Grounds;

Soccer Made Simple 1 (Stephano Christopher 9 pen), Malabar Young Stars 2 (Nathan Plaza 12 pen, Anthony Wells 39) at Bon Air East Recreation;

Blast FC 2 (Jelani Valentine 9, Quamy Waithe 80), Cantaro United 1 (Jakiel Chandler 20) at Constantine Park;

QPCC – City FC on a bye

Group B

Point Fortin Youth FA 1 (Danyel Drayton 22 pen), Made in La Brea 0 at Techier Recreation Ground;

Gasparillo Youths 4 (James Baptiste 22, Jaden Alexander 35, Tyrese Harding 54, Jahlon Lewis 86), Kamillionare FC 0 at Tabaquite Recreation Ground;

Moruga FC 2 (Che Teesdale 14, Terrel Thompson 89), Central Soccer World 3 (Kelon Williams 15, Ethan Trotman 46, Nathan George 50) at Marac Recreation Ground.

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