Just three years into their existence, Central FC announced itself on the international stage tonight as the “Couva Sharks” shocked four-time regional champions DIRECTV W Connection 2-1 in the 2015 Caribbean Club Championship final at the Ato Boldon Stadium, Couva.
The result itself might not seem surprising as Central have already won the Trinidad and Tobago Pro League title, the First Citizens Cup and are in the Pro Bowl final while Connection are trophy-less.
However, the final was anything but routine as Central, with just 16 players and no centre forwards available, started with defender-cum-midfielder Jamal Jack upfront and left back Keion Goodridge at centre midfield alongside the rarely used Jean-Luc Rochford.
And Central coach Terry Fenwick began the match with Ataulla Guerra, the most dynamic player in the Pro League let alone on the Central roster, on the bench.
Fenwick, a former England World Cup player, can claim to know a thing or two about football. Rochford put the Sharks ahead in the 27th minute and Jack doubled their lead in the 68th minute.
Connection’s challenge unravelled in a mad five-minute spell as defender Maurice Ford received a second yellow card for a foul on opposing winger Nathaniel Garcia in the 60th minute. While, in the 65th minute, Gerard Williams got his own marching orders with a crunching tackle on Garcia that nearly snapped him in two.
Ironically, Connection, who used Hashim Arica off the bench, created more chances than ever with just nine players on the field and deserved their 90th minute item from Neil Benjamin Jr.
But it was too late to overturn Central’s advantage as the Sharks shaved the biggest Couva Clasico to date for their first international trophy.
Both teams qualify for the 2015/16 CONCACAF Champions League alongside Jamaica’s Montego Bay United FC, who edged Haiti’s Don Bosco FC 1-0 earlier this evening.
Central FC (4-3-3): 21.Jan-Michael Williams (GK); 17.Marcelle Francois, 2.Elton John, 5.Akeem Benjamin (8.Sean De Silva 74), 4.Uriah Bentick, 14.Jean-Luc Rochford (45.Ataulla Guerra 59), 10.Marvin Oliver, 3.Keion Goodridge, 7.Jason Marcano, 12.Jamal Jack, 19.Nathaniel Garcia (6.Leston Paul 70).
Unused substitutes: 1.Javon Sample (GK), 11.Darren Mitchell.
Injured: 15.Kaydion Gabriel.
Suspension: 33.Willis Plaza.
Coach: Terry Fenwick
W Connection (4-2-1-3): 18.Julani Archibald (GK); 27.Shannon Gomez, 5.Mekeil Williams (captain), 26.Maurice Ford [Red Card 60], 13.Devaughn Elliot; 3.Gerard Williams [Red Card 65], 39.Alvin Jones (14.Hashim Arcia 57), 8.Stiven Reyes (25.Christian Viveros 67), 12.Jerrel Britto, 9.Shahdon Winchester, 40.Jomal Williams (65.Neil Benjamin Jr 69).
Unused substitutes: 22.Aquelius Sylvester (GK), 20.Christian Rodrigues, 36.Triston Hodge.
Coach: Stuart Charles-Fevrier
Referee: Sherwin Moore (Guyana)
Caribbean Club Championship finals
(Sun May 24)
Central FC 2 (Jean-Loc Rochford 27, Jamal Jack 68), W Connection 1 (Neil Benjamin Jr 90) at Ato Boldon Stadium;
Third Place Play Off
Montego Bay United FC 1 (Owayne Gordon 70), Don Bosco FC 0 at Ato Boldon Stadium.
Editor’s Note: Click HERE to read an analysis of the Caribbean Cup final through coaches Terry Fenwick (Central FC), Earl Jean (W Connection) and captain Marvin Oliver (Central FC).