Caribbean champions Neal & Massy Caledonia AIA made heavy work of Super League outfit, FC Santa Rosa, in Toyota Classic Cup action this evening as the “Eastern Stallions” stumbled to a 3-2 win at the Hasely Crawford Stadium, Port of Spain.
Caledonia enjoyed the lion’s share of the possession but lacked urgency in the final third and was almost embarrassed by the plucky and tactically disciplined Eastern Football Association (EFA) outfit.
The Morvant/Laventille team’s starting formation resembled a 4-2-4 with wingers Trayon Bobb and Nathan Lewis used high up the pitch while Trinidad and Tobago midfielder Ataullah Guerra played just behind striker Conrod Smith.
But Santa Rosa, led by former Joe Public and national youth team coach Keith Look Loy, stayed compact and closed off the passing lanes in and around Smith.
Caledonia went ahead in the 21st minute after goalkeeper Andrew Durant, a former Pro League journeyman, failed to hold on to a Guerra drive and Bobb slide home the loose ball.
But if the “Eastern Stallions” were waiting for Santa Rosa to lose shape, they were left disappointed. Instead, the cheeky lower league outfit responded with a fine equaliser provoked by the introduction of substitute Vurlon Mills.
Caledonia head coach Jamaal Shabazz doubles as the Guyana football technical director and he is rarely shy to sign a talented player from the mainland. But perhaps he missed a trick by not gobbling up the 21-year-old Mills.
Mills replaced Theon James in the 49th minute and, ten minutes later, conjured up a clever pass for Eon Alleyne who poked the ball beyond Caledonia custodian Glenroy Samuel.
Moe responded by introducing Abdallah Phillips and Keyon Edwards for Nathan Lewis and Smith. And Phillips had a hand in restoring Caledonia’s advantage.
Phillips struck the bar in the 71st minute off a Walter Moore cross and, before Santa Rosa could clear, he was back in possession and panicked Jeremy McMeo into a clumsy challenge. Caledonia playmaker Densill Theobald converted the resulting penalty kick.
Caledonia extended its advantage in the 85th minute as substitute Odelle Armstrong, in his first appearance of the season, stroked past Durant from inside the area.
By then, Caledonia was showing little appetite for the battle and seemed to be playing for the final whistle.
Theobald pulled out of a tackle with opposing midfielder Danilo Silva and Santa Rosa promptly stormed into the Caledonia area where Alleyne fired an effort that shook the bar.
Three minutes into stoppage time, Santa Rosa got a second as Trinidad and Tobago national under-20 captain Duane Muckette blasted into the top corner from outside the penalty area.
Look Loy’s men were understandably proud at the final whistle. It was not enough for the win, though.
FC Santa Rosa (4-3-3): 22.Andrew Durant; 3.Akinkhu Trotman, 12.Jason Hope (capt), 13.Jovan Rochford, 20.Denvor Dennis; 19.Andre Rampersad (11.Osei Sandy 79), 25.Jeremy McMeo; 5.Danilo Silva; 10.Duane Muckette, 17.Theon James (23.Vurlon Mills 49), 21.Eon Alleyne.
Unused subs: 1.Kitwana Manning, 4.Xae Pierre de Fou, 7.DeShourn Barrington, 8.Richard Ayers, 16.Ricardo Taitt,
Coach: Keith Look Loy
Caledonia (4-3-3): 33.Glenroy Samuel; 2.Aubrey David, 3.Nuru Muhammad, 5.Aquil Selby, 15.Walter Moore; 7.Stephan David (capt); 21.Densill Theobald, 25.Ataullah Guerra (16.Odelle Armstrong 82); 27.Nathan Lewis (11.Abdallah Phillips 68), 10.Conrod Smith (9.Keyon Edwards 70), 13.Trayon Bobb.
Unused subs: 34.Colin Edwards, 6.Trevin Caesar, 12.Kareem Joseph, 24.Kemron Purcell.
Coach: Jamaal Shabazz