… Pro League teams book CONCACAF spots
The Trinidad and Tobago Pro League is assured two of three CONCACAF Club Championship spots available after Neal & Massy Caledonia and W Connection were both victorious in tonight’s Caribbean Football Union (CFU) semifinal fixtures in Marabella.
Second half goals from Radanfah Abu Bakr and substitute Devorn Jorsling created a piece of history for Caledonia AIA as the “Eastern Stallions” qualified for the CONCACAF tournament with a 2-0 win over Antigua Barracuda at the Mannie Ramjohn Stadium.
And Connection was even more emphatic as the “Savonetta Boys”, led by a Rennie Britto double, whipped Puerto Rico Islanders 4-1 in the second match of a double header.
Connection and Caledonia will meet from 8 pm on Thursday June 21 at Marabella in the CFU finals while Barracuda and the Islanders will fight for one spot from 6 pm at the same venue.
Barracuda was fast, energetic and resolute but rarely threatened as Caledonia reaped the rewards for its ambition in the opening fixture.
Caledonia left winger Trayon Bobb and adventurous right back Kareem “Tiny” Joseph repeatedly stretched the Antiguan team before Cornelius Stewart conjured up the opener from the right wing.
Stewart, a St Vincent and the Grenadines international, gave a patchy performance on the night but produced a brilliant cross in the 64th minute and Abu Bakr, who snuck forward from central defence, rose to head the ball down to the left of goalkeeper Molvin James for the opener.
Caledonia did not keep the ball as well as coaches Jamaal Shabazz and Jerry Moe might have liked and lively Antiguan international striker Peter Byers kept the back four honest. But Jorsling came off the bench to settle the home team’s nerves in the closing minutes.
Barracuda might feel hard done as left back Quinton Griffith went down clutching his hamstring but substitute Nathan Lewis, who replaced Stewart, seized the opportunity to win the ball and drive it into the penalty area. Jorsling doesn’t miss many from inside the area on his favoured left foot and, even outstretched, he was able to hammer into the corner.
In the second fixture, Connection gave a masterful performance to dismantle a Puerto Rican team that was seeking a hattrick of CFU title wins.
Connection’s midfielder duo of Clyde Leon and Andrei Pacheco were in fine form as the hosts played with patience and cunning against the well organised Islanders. And Rennie Britto produced a touch of magic to open up the match with a superb left footed curler into the far corner, midway through the frst half.
The Islanders threatened through the dangerous wide delivery of midfielder David Foley and nippy striker Jonathan Fana, a former Connection employee. But the Connection backline, marshalled by goalkeeper and captain Jan-Michael Williams, stood firm while young defender Akeem Benjamin caught the eye with a composed performance.
And a recovery for the visitors always seemed unlikely when Connection grabbed a second goal against the run of play in the second half.
Jerrel Britto, the younger cousin of Rennie Britto, cut in to collect a diagonal ball on the break and neatly lifted his effort past goalie Richard Martin in the 58th minute.
The play was repeated, nine minutes later, as Rennie dashed inside from the right flank to collect a gorgeous through pass from strike partner Hasim Arcia. The finish, again, was clinical.
Islanders introduced a raft of attacking changes including Guyanese international and former Joe Public star Gregory Richardson but it was another substitute, Joshua Hansen, who got the goal the Puerto Ricans deserved with a well executed half volley from the edge of the area that beat Williams in the 76th minute.
Connection gambled by leaving two attackers high and wide up the pitch and it paid off in the 88th minute through yet another counter attack as a Gerard Williams sliced through the Islanders defence and Rennie Britto generously squared for Arcia to tap into an empty net.
Connection, who is already the most successful team in modern era of the CFU tournament, will chase a fifth regional title on Thursday.
Caledonia, who already won three knock out titles this season, will seek their most prestigious crown yet as the Stallions seek their first CFU silverware.
Caledonia: 1.Ronson Williams; 12.Kareem Joseph, 3.Nuru Muhammad, 29.Radanfah Abu Bakr, 15.Walter Moore; 8.Cornelius Stewart (17.Nathan Lewis 69), 7.Stephan David, 9.Keyon Edwards, 13.Trayon Bobb; 23.Jamal Gay (19.Conrad Smith 75), 10.Trevin Caesar (26.Devorn Jorsling 56).
Unused Subs: 50.Glenroy Samuel, 24.Kemron Purcell, 4.Colin Nelson, 11.Abdallah Phillip.
W Connection: 18.Jan-Michael Williams; 13.Kern Cupid, 5.Elijah Joseph, 3.Akeem Benjamin, 36.Joevin Jones; 12.Gerard Williams; 8.Clyde Leon, 17.Andrei Pacheco (37.Johann Peltier 87); 7.Rennie Britto, 14.Hasim Arcia, 31.Jerrel Britto (25 Christian Viveros 77).
Unused Subs: 22.Aquelius Sylvester, 6.Kemuel Rivers, 29.Jomal Williams, 35.Anthony Parris, 65.Neil Benjamin Jr.
CFU Club Championship
Caledonia 2 (Radanfah Abu Bakr 64, Devorn Jorsling 88), Antigua Barracuda 0
W Connection 4 (Rennie Britto 27, 67, Jerrel Britto 58, Hasim Arcia 89), P/Rico Islanders 1 (Joshua Hansen 76)