Central FC made a title winning start to the 2014/15 season last night as the “Couva Sharks” retained the First Citizens Cup trophy with a 1-0 win over North East Stars at the Ato Boldon Stadium, Couva.
The $100,000 triumph, along with Central’s early season form, suggests that the Sharks have continued their progress under new Yugoslavia-born coach Zoran Vranes, who replaced Englishman Terry Fenwick in the pre-season. So there would be relieved, smiling faces in the Central FC boardroom.
But, on the field, there was no escaping the fact that the final itself was utterly forgettable for neutral observers among a decent crowd of over 1,000 patrons.
Central captain Leston Paul scored the winner in the 64th minute with a fine strike from the edge of the opposing area that went in off the far post. And then Stars utility player Kennedy Hinkson missed a golden opportunity to level scores in the 88th minute when he miskicked with a clear sight of goal.
Otherwise, the two teams lacked dynamism as the game was often pedestrian in central midfield while neither side offered quality delivery from the flanks.
Still, the Sharks were marginally better and deserved their triumph on the run of the play.
Stars goalkeeper and captain Cleon John used his legs to deny Paul, late in the first half, after a scoffed shot from Central striker Dwight Quintero fell into the path of the busy midfielder.
John was alert again to keep out a flick from veteran Marvin Oliver in the 59th minute off a Sean De Silva corner kick. But there was nothing the Stars shot-stopper could do about Paul’s opener in the 64th minute after a brisk Central attack that involved defender Akeem Benjamin and support striker Ataulla Guerra.
Denzil Daniel, Central’s burly 20-year-old wing back and former youth team player, might have doubled his team’s advantage in the 82nd minute but failed to connect with a diving header from an inviting De Silva cross. And Paul almost bettered his first strike as he drove through the Stars defence on the break only to pull his left footed effort just wide of the far post.
Yet, as the final whistle neared, Stars could and probably should have levelled the game. The Central defence failed to clear a Jayson Joseph cross and the ball broke for Hinkson on top of the six-yard box. You would normally put your house on the composed utility player from that distance. And you would be homeless.
Hinkson kicked only air as he fell over in a heap.
It said much that the first player to commiserate with Hinkson was Central custodian Jan-Michael Williams. Hinkson ignored him.
When referee Neal Brizan blew the final whistle, Hinkson slumped to the ground and refused condolences from players from either team before the Stars coaching staff eventually dragged him to his feet.
If there is any consolation to the little fellah, it was not a game that will live long in the memory of the fans who saw it.
Central FC (3-5-2): 21.Jan-Michael Williams (GK); 5.Akeem Benjamin, 10.Marvin Oliver 17.Marcelle Francois; 23.Denzil Daniel, 6.Leston Paul (captain), 14.Jean-Luc Rochford, 8.Sean De Silva (28.Miguel Romeo 87), 11.Darren Mitchell; 45.Ataulla Guerra (13.Seon Thomas 90), 99.Dwight Quintero (7.Jason Marcano 75).
Unused substitutes: 30.Akel Clarke (GK), 18.Kevon Goddard, 19.Nathaniel Garcia, 27.Shaquille Williams.
Coach: Zoran Vranes
North East Stars (3-5-2): 22.Cleon John (GK); 14.Dwane James, 5.Aquil Selby, 25.Keryn Navarro; 3.Kareem Richardson (8.Adrian Noel 73), 18.Kaashif Thomas (42.Taryk Sampson 73), 44.Kion Joseph, 10.Keron Cummings, 12.Jayson Joseph; 23.Kennedy Hinkson, 9.Tyrone Charles.
Unused substitutes: 1.Stefan Berkeley (GK), 6.Jeromie Williams, 35.Jordan Devonish, 40.Jomoul Francois, 43.Reon Moore.
Coach: Angus Eve
Referee: Neal Brizan
2014 First Citizens Cup final
(Fri Nov 31)
Central FC 1 (Leston Paul 64), North East Stars 0 at Ato Boldon Stadium;
Most Valuable Player: Jan-Michael Williams (Central FC)
Best Coach: Zoran Vranes (Central FC)