Trinidad and Tobago striker Willis Plaza gave a timely reminder of his poaching instincts last night as Central FC edged defending Pro League champions, DIRECTV W Connection, 1-0 in the Couva Clasico at the Ato Boldon Stadium.
The result sent the “Couva Sharks” six points clear of Connection at the top of the standings although the latter team has a game in hand.
Earlier, in another tight affair, North East Stars snapped Point Fortin Civic’s run of two successive wins with a 1-0 triumph at the same venue. The winning goal came off the boot of a Civic player while Stars goalkeeper Cleon John, whose team holds the joint best defensive record in the league, was again unbeatable.
Connection goalkeeper and St Kitts and Nevis international Julani Archibald, like the Stars custodian, has only conceded six league goals this season from nine outings. But his sixth came last night and it was decisive.
Central were the stronger team in the first 25 minutes as the midfield trio of Sean De Silva, Elton John and veteran Marvin Oliver moved the ball about briskly and forced Connection to defend deep.
But the “Savonetta Boys” soon came into their own with playmaker Hashim Arcia leading the fight back. Arguably, Connection had the best chance of the first half as Central right back Kaydion Gabriel pulled off a brilliant double save on the goalline to deny Jerrel Britto and Arcia off a right side corner kick.
But, four minutes before the break, Central winger Jason Marcano drove into box from wide on the right flank and hit a low, firm effort towards the far corner that Archibald palmed in front of him.
And the 27-year-old Plaza did not need to be asked twice as he beat his marker to the loose ball for his third goal in as many matches since he rejoined Central from a disastrous stint with Belgian lower league club, CS Visé.
Plaza followed former Central coach Terry Fenwick to the Belgium outfit last July along with 21-year-old striker Rundell Winchester, 27-year-old utility player Elton John and 27-year-old left back Kevon Villaroel. But the quartet returned to Trinidad amidst complaints of unpaid salaries and inadequate living conditions.
Central showed their ambition by signing all four players. And, last night, it helped provided just an inch of daylight space from their fierce Couva rivals, Connection, who were without their Trinidad and Tobago National Under-20 trio of Shannon Gomez, Aikim Andrews and Akeem Garcia.
Central FC (4-4-2): 21.Jan-Michael Williams (GK); 15.Kaydion Gabriel, 5.Akeem Benjamin, 12.Jamal Jack, 4.Uriah Bentick; 7.Jason Marcano (11.Darren Mitchell 86), 10.Marvin Oliver (24.Kevon Villaroel 74), 2.Elton John, 8.Sean De Silva (captain); 45.Ataulla Guerra (77.Rundell Winchester 69), 33.Willis Plaza.
Unused substitutes: 30.Akel Clarke (GK), 17.Marcell Francois, 19.Nathaniel Garcia, 99.Dwight Quintero.
Coach: Zoran Vranes
W Connection (4-2-3-1): 18.Julani Archibald (GK); 39.Alvin Jones, 19.Joel Russell (20.Christian Rodriguez 46), 5.Mekeil Williams (captain), 36.Triston Hodge; 3.Gerard Williams (captain), 11.Tremain Paul; 13.Devaughn Elliot (48.Stiven Concha 46), 14.Hashim Arcia, 40.Jomal Williams (43.Shirvone St Prix 75); 12.Jerrel Britto.
Unused substitutes: 22.Aquelius Sylvester (GK), 2.Kurt Frederick, 16.Anselm Jackson, 30.Aaquil Campbell.
Coach: Stuart Charles-Fevrier
Pro League results
(Fri Jan 23)
North East Stars 1 (OG 48), Point Fortin Civic 0 at Couva;
Central FC 1 (Willis Plaza 41), W Connection 0 at Couva;
(Sun Jan 24)
St Ann’s Rangers vs San Juan Jabloteh, 4 pm, Ato Boldon Stadium, Couva;
Police FC vs Defence Force, 6 pm, Ato Boldon Stadium, Couva.