DIRECTV W Connection had a predictably rough opening CONCACAF Champions League encounter last night as the Trinidad and Tobago Pro League club was trounced 4-0 by defending Mexico champions, Santos Laguna, at the Corona Stadium in Torreon.
Santos had to wait until the 41st minute for their first goal, which 24-year-old Cape Verde striker Djaniny squeezed home after a cross from Jose Abella. But the hosts added three second half items at a stroll as a makeshift Connection team, which had three goalkeepers in their 18-man squad, failed to offer much resistance.
Connection used five teenagers against Mexico’s top club including two schoolboys, 18-year-old Naparima College playmaker Jabari Mitchell and 16-year-old Presentation College (San Fernando) left back Keston Julien.
And, just as tellingly, four players made senior competitive debuts for the “Savonetta Boys” at a punishing level. While, in the absence of the suspended Gerrard Williams and Maurice Ford, coach Stuart Charles-Fevrier used utility player Christian Viveros and left back Kurt Frederick in central defence.
It did not add up to a particularly cohesive display from Connection as they completed 82 passes over the 90 minutes and were outshot by 29 attempts on goal to five.
Jesus Escoboza doubled Laguna’s lead in the 61st minute as he shrugged off a weak Shannon Gomez challenge before blasting past Connection custodian Julani Archibald.
The St Kitts and Nevis international goalkeeper might have been even more annoyed with his defenders in the 68th minute as a weak back pass from Frederick, a St Lucia international, was punished by Djaniny.
Djaniny’s initial shot came off the post but he made no mistake with the rebound.
Archibald had a moment to savour in the 85th minute as he produced a superb save to push a Bryan Rabello free kick off his upright.
But Laguna had the last laugh in stoppage time as Djaniny eased away from Gomez and spanked another effort off the post where substitute Luis Mendoza reacted smartly for a simple tap in.
Laguna had 69 percent of the ball possession by the final whistle while the result means that Connection have not scored in the Champions League for four successive matches. Neil Benjamin Jr got Connection’s last goal during a 3-1 loss to Panamanian club Arabe Unido in 2013.
Benjamin was an unused substitute against Laguna but is expected to shake off a hamstring injury in time for Connection’s next group assignment away to Costa Rica club champions, Saprissa, on August 20.
Hopefully, captain Alvin Jones and left back Triston Hodge, who both represented the Trinidad and Tobago National Under-23 Team at the 2015 Pan American Games, will also be fit to face Saprissa, after they were replaced due to injuries last night.
Fellow Pro League club, Central FC, start their own Champions League adventure tomorrow night away to United States Major League Soccer (MLS) club, LA Galaxy.
W Connection: 18.Julani Archibald (GK); 21.Shannon Gomez, 25.Christian Viveros, 2.Kurt Frederick, 5.Triston Hodge (35.Keston Julien 30); 16.Alvin Jones (captain) (46.Anfernee Frederick 78), 23.Kevon Goddard, 34.Jabari Mitchell (17.Aikim Andrews 46); 10.Jomal Williams, 20.Jamal Charles, 12.Dimitrie Apai.
Unused substitutes: 1.Terrence Lewis (GK), 22.Aquelius Sylvester (GK), 13.Kion Joseph, 11.Neil Benjamin Jr.
Coach: Stuart Charles-Fevrier
Santos Laguna: 1.Agustin Marchesin (GK); 2.Jose Abella, 14.Nestor Araujo, 24.Carlos Izquierdoz, 5.Cesar Ibanez, 11.Nestor Calderon (10.Bryan Rabello 78), 4.Jesus Molina, 88.Ulises Rivas, 17.Jesus Escoboza (9.Luis Mendoza 71), 18.Edson Rivera (7.Andres Renteria 59), 21.Djaniny.
Unused substitutes: 32.Julio Gonzales (GK), 3.Kristian Alvarez, 6.Sergio Ceballos, 23.Carlos Orrantia.
Coach: Pedro Caixinha
CONCACAF Champions League
(Tue Aug 4)
Santos Laguna 4 (Djaniny 41, 68, Jesus Escoboza 61, Luis Mendoza 90), W Connection 0 in Torreon, Mexico;
(Thu Aug 6)
LA Galaxy v Central FC, 10 pm, Los Angeles, USA.