Last night, First Citizens Cup holders Caledonia AIA crashed out of the competition at the first hurdle as the “Eastern Stallions” slumped to a 1-0 quarterfinal loss to Defence Force at the Marvin Lee Stadium in Macoya.
The “Eastern Stallions” have now gone eight successive competitive games without a win and six of those results were defeats. If that is not a crisis, it will do until the real one gets here.
In yesterday’s other quarterfinal fixture at Macoya, San Juan Jabloteh made it two wins from as many matches as the “San Juan Kings” downed St Ann’s Rangers 2-1 to book a semifinal clash with Defence Force on Friday.
Jabloteh only held its first training session in early September as the former Pro League founding member secured a late return to the top flight. Under such circumstances, coach Keith Jeffrey should have expected a tough time. Not when the fixture list keeps offering an opponent as pliable as Rangers, though.
In Jabloteh’s season opener, on September 20, Jeffrey’s men recovered from a 4-1 deficit to stun Rangers 6-5 at the Hasely Crawford Stadium in Port of Spain. And, yesterday, Jabloteh outdid Rangers in more comfortable circumstances despite some late pressure from the St Ann’s team.
Midfielder Shane Hospedales opened the scoring as he completed a flowing Jabloteh attack in the 43rd minute for his second goal of the season. And Kerry Baptiste doubled their advantage from the penalty spot in the 70th minute for his fourth item in two matches after Rangers defender Akim Ash handled a Rennie Britto cross.
A torrential downpour in the second half seemed to lift Rangers’ spirits but an own goal from Jamal Spencer, who inadvertently beat the Jabloteh goalkeeper with a looping header, was as good as it got for new Rangers coach Gilbert Bateau.
At least Bateau can point to a win over Police FC last Friday. Shabazz would have to look a lot harder to find a ray of sunshine, even though the skies had cleared up by the time the Defence Force and Caledonia teams strode out on to the turf.
Caledonia’s last triumph came on 20 May 2013 when the Stallions edged Jamaica’s Portmore United 1-0 in Port of Spain.
Shabazz’s men started well enough but Defence Force custodian Kevin Graham was equal to the task with two key saves to deny Nathan Lewis and Tyrone Charles in the eighth and 14th minutes respectively.
And, not for the first time, Caledonia was left cursing its bad luck as the army/coast guard combination converted its first good scoring opportunity in the 53rd minute when right back Marvin Jones diverted a cross from left back Aklie Edwards into the roof of the net.
The sight of the opposition’s two full backs combining to score might have been an extra kick in the teeth for Shabazz whose own wing backs, Noel Williams and Kareem “Tiny” Joseph, barely crossed the halfline and were unrecognizable from their usual buccaneering selves.
Josimar Belgrave should have given Defence Force an insurance item in the 70th minute too but failed to beat Caledonia custodian Shemel Louison after another raking left side Edwards cross.
By then, Caledonia had introduced lanky striker Jamal Gay and his headed flick-ons had troubled the Defence Force backline although fellow substitute Keyon Edwards and veteran midfielder Densill Theobald both failed to finish with conviction after Gay’s assists.
Lewis got the best opportunity of the second half after an incisive through pass from Keron Bethlemy but Graham was defiant as he flung out a right arm to divert the ball off his far post and out for a corner.
Match official Michael London signaled for a goal kick rather than a corner. Considering Caledonia’s luck at present, if Shabazz bought the winning lottery ticket he would probably lose it. But that is not to say that most of the Morvant/Laventille team’s pain has not been self-inflicted.
The First Citizens Cup continues on Friday evening without them.
Defence Force and Jabloteh square off from 6 pm in the first semifinal at the Ato Boldon Stadium in Couva while, at 8 pm, DIRECTV W Connection meets Central FC in a fixture that might say much about the latter’s title aspirations this season.
Caledonia’s pain will mean sweet opportunity for one of that quartet.
Defence Force (4-2-3-1): 1.Kevin Graham (GK); 13.Marvin Jones, 8.Curtis Gonzales, 6.Rodell Elcock, 21.Aklie Edwards; 14.Cory Rivers (captain), 18.Sean Narcis (15.Jerwyn Balthazar 80); 23.Kerry Joseph (17.Ross Russell Jr 90), 10.Josimar Belgrave, 12.Jemel Sebro; 26.Richard Roy (9.Devorn Jorsling 86).
Unused substitutes: 25.Sheldon Clarke (GK), 11.Kevon Carter, 65.Levi Serries.
Coach: Ross Russell
Caledonia AIA (4-2-3-1): 1.Shemel Louison (GK); 12.Kareem Joseph, 3.Nuru Muhammad (captain), 2.Aubrey David, 20.Noel Williams; 21.Densill Theobald, 25.Keron Bethlemy; 27.Nathan Lewis, 11.Abdallah Phillips (23.Jamal Gay 65), 16.Tyronne Charles (9.Keyon Edwards 46); 10.Kithson Bain (6.Marcus Ambrose 76).
Unused substitutes: 33.Glenroy Samuel (GK), 6.Marcus Ambrose, 7.Stephan David, 22.Miguel Romeo, 24.Kevaughn Connell.
Coach: Jamaal Shabazz
First Citizens Cup
(Mon 30 September)
San Juan Jabloteh 2 (Shane Hospedales 43, Kerry Baptiste 70 pen), St Ann’s Rangers 1 (Jamal Spencer 90+1 OG) at Marvin Lee Stadium,
Defence Force 1 (Marvin Jones 53), Caledonia AIA 0 at Marvin Lee Stadium
(Fri 4 October)
Defence Force vs S/Juan Jabloteh, 6 pm, Ato Boldon Stadium,
DIRECTV W Connection vs Central FC, 8 pm, Ato Boldon Stadium.