Neal & Massy Caledonia AIA will join DIRECTV W Connection in the group stage of the 2013/14 CONCACAF Champions League after holding Jamaica’s Portmore United to a 2-2 draw in the second leg of a CONCACAF playoff yesterday evening at the Ato Bolton Stadium, Couva.
Yesterday’s result meant that Caledonia enjoyed a slender 3-2 aggregate win over the visitors after a 1-0 first leg triumph for the Morvant/Laventille-based team at the Hasely Crawford Stadium in Port of Spain. It is the second successive year that Caledonia has qualified for the Confederation’s most prestigious club tournament.
“Coming off a long season I think we did well to win the first game,” Caledonia AIA assistant coach Jerry Moe told Wired868. “The second game (last night) was a more difficult game also. We just needed to play a smart and get to CONCACAF because at this stage that’s all that matters.”
On a rainy Wednesday night, the “Eastern Stallions” continued to control possession, as they did in the first leg, with playmaker Densill Theobald and captain Stephan David accurately manoeuvring the ball forward and on to the flanks.
Caledonia might have scored as early as the fifth minute when Theobald stole the ball and right winger Akim Armstrong who, with Nathan Lewis and Jamal Gay available, chose neither and struck a weak, long ranged shot straight to Portmore keeper Kemar Foster.
Lewis did get his goal in the 13th minute to put Caledonia 2-0 ahead on aggregate. This time, Foster fumbled a low, hard shot from Lewis and the left winger scooped up the rebound to score the opener.
As the heavens opened up and the rain came pouring down, passing became difficult for both sides and the game slowed considerably.
Still, 10 minutes before the halftime interval, Caledonia should have scored a second after an intricate exchange between David and Lewis but deep-lying forward Andre Toussant delayed and Foster smothered his shot.
Toussaint fluffed his lines again in the 54th minute as Gay lobbed a clever ball into his path but Foster was again equal to the task.
By then, though, the youthful Portmore team was in the ascendancy and beginning to show more confidence on the ball.
The boys from the “Land of Wood and Water” eventually got their first goal of the two-legged tie in the 60th minute when Stephen Williams found a gap in the opposing defence and capitalised with a low shot past Caledonia custodian Glenroy Samuel.
Coaches Jamaal Shabazz and Moe replaced Toussaint with Keyon Edwards and they might have patted themselves on the back as, three minutes later, he scored with his first touch in the 68th minute.
Once more, David was the architect as he supplied Edwards, who shielded his marker before firing home from a tight angle.
But Samuel was fuming again in the 74th minute as Portmore levelled once more.
Lewis took too long to clear in his own box and Williams stole possession and teed up holding midfielder Andrew Vanzie who converted with a controlled, accurate strike to Samuel’s left.
Caledonia nearly reclaimed the lead in the 77th minute when a Nuru Mohammed header, off a Theobald free kick, was acrobatically palmed away.
However, the big moment of the match came in the 82nd minute when Samuel brought down Portmore substitute Cleon Price in the box. It was a very close call but Cuban referee Marvo Despaige deemed it to be a legal challenge.
“I didn’t get a good view on it,” said Moe. “Probably I may be a bit biased me saying that, but until I see a replay I won’t be sure.”
Portmore coach Clive Marshall was convinced, though.
“It was a penalty,” said Marshall. “But, as I always say to my team… referees lean towards the home team. Not saying of course that cheating was meant but generally you expect a home team to benefit from those tight 50/50 calls. Nevertheless, it was a good game.”
Marshall commended his young side for their efforts over the two legs.
“It was very good to see the kind of effort we put in especially in the second half,” he said. “I think we bounced back well in from the first game. We gave up two goals with errors by our defence but we came back well and I think we should have capitalized.
“At this level, if we keep making mistakes we will always be punished. We have been doing this over the season in Jamaica and we come here and still gave up goals and it hurt us. But we just have to learn and continue improving and work hard so that we don’t make such mistakes in the future.
“Congrats to Caledonia for getting stuck into it and qualifying. But, as I said, we will learn as we move forward.”
Moe did not think the fact that Caledonia hosted both legs was decisive. Portmore agreed to play the two legs in Trinidad to cut costs while Caledonia helped offset the Jamaican team’s travel expenditure.
“Yes and no,” said Moe, about the possible advantage. “… It may have worked out in our favour but we still had to get the job done.”
Caledonia AIA will now await the CONCACAF Champions League draw on June 3rd at the Intercontinental Hotel at Doral, Miami, Florida to discover the identity of its group stage opponents.
Caledonia AIA (4-2-3-1): 33.Glenroy Samuel (GK); 12.Kareem Joseph, 3.Nuru Abdullah Muhammad, 4.Colin Nelson, 2.Aubrey David; 21.Densill Theobald, 7.Stephan David (captain); 17.Akim Armstrong (26.Vurlon Mills 80),13.Andre Toussant (9.Keyon Edwards 65), 27.Nathan Lewis; 23.Jamal Gay.
Unused substitutes: 1.Shemel Louison (GK), 15.Aaron Lester, 19.Nical Stevens, 20.Akeem Thomas.
Coach: Jamaal Shabazz
Portmore United (4-1-3-2): 1.Kemar Foster (GK); 4.Rosario Harriot, 34.Adrian Reid (captain), 5.Upston Edwards, 16.Trevol Smith; 12.Andrew Vanzie; 17.Paul Wilson (9.Cleon Price 79), 19.Ewan Grandison, 14.Stephen Williams; 10.Andre Lewis (7.Bryan Bayliss 70), 21.Sue La Mc Calla (6.Ray Wellington 85).
Unused substitutes: 30.Carlloyd Walters (GK), 15.Rickardo Harriot, 20.Adoah Nickle, 22.Damion Binns.
Coach: Clive Marshall
Referee: Marco Brea Despaigne (Cuba)
Wednesday 22 May 2013
Caledonia AIA 2 (Nathan Lewis 13, Keyon Edwards 68), Portmore United 2 (Stephen Williams 60, Andrew Vanzie 74) at Ato Bolton Stadium, Couva.
Monday 20 May 2013
Caledonia AIA 1 (Jamal Gay 27), Portmore United 0 at the Hasely Crawford Stadium, Port of Spain