Central FC gave an improved showing in Guatemala last night but it was not enough for the Trinidad and Tobago Pro League club’s first point of the CONCACAF Champions League.
The “Couva Sharks” succumbed to their second successive defeat, albeit by a single goal to Comunicaciones, while they finished the match with 10 players after the late dismissal of defender Jamal Jack.
The result left the Sharks with only an improbably mathematical chance of grabbing the sole qualifying spot from Group D, after their opening 5-1 mauling away to LA Galaxy.
At present, Galaxy leads the group with six points while Comunicaciones has three and Central none. All teams have two games left. And, considering that Galaxy enjoys a goal differential of plus-nine compared to Central’s minus-five, coach Ross Russell and his men would probably be playing for pride in their two home matches.
But then the odds were always stacked against the local teams who are effectively playing in their pre-season against much better resourced teams already well into their own domestic calendars.
And, in Guatemala, the Sharks definitely did much better than the ragged display they produced in Los Angeles.
Maybe this is what happens when they don’t have to go searching for their travelling money, which, bizarrely, ended up in the bank account of Sport Minister Brent Sancho before their opening Champions League fixture.
Russell welcomed back veteran midfielder Marvin Oliver into his first team too along with debutantes Marcus Joseph and Andre Ettienne, who both joined Central from Point Fortin Civic.
Oliver’s sharp first-time passes and clear instructions ensured Central had a steady pulse today and the Caribbean visitors did have their moments in attack too.
Yet, Comunicaciones was the better team.
The host outfit went ahead in the 11th minute when Wilson Lalin produced a fine header from a right side free kick to beat Central custodian Jan-Michael Williams.
It was a reversal of fortunes for both men who represented their respective nations at the CONCACAF Gold Cup last month when Trinidad and Tobago won 3-1.
Comunicaciones should have doubled the scores in the 29th minute when, after another set piece, Jorge Aparicio volleyed a ball across the face of the goal where striker Rolando Blackburn could not convert.
Aparacio was another Gold Cup player for Guatemala while Blackburn has 17 caps for the Panama senior team. It was an example of the talent and experience that Central was up against.
But Williams was not beaten in goal again, even after Central went a man down in the 83rd minute when Jack was shown the red card for a foul on opposing striker Emiliano Lopez. It looked harsh but Jack was the last defender and, once Panamanian referee John Pitti whistled for an infringement, there was only going to be one outcome.
The Sharks can avenge themselves in three weeks time, when they host Comunicaciones at the Hasely Crawford Stadium. And yesterday’s result might offer encouragement.
It is five years since a local club won a match in the CONCACAF Champions League. Central forward Kerry Baptiste was among the scorers then as Joe Public, coached by current Trinidad and Tobago senior team assistant coach Derek King, whipped Costa Rican outfit, Brujas, 4-2 on 5 August 2010.
Russell and his troops can set that right on September 17.
Central FC (4-2-3-1): 21.Jan-Michael Williams (GK) (captain); 15.Kaydion Gabriel, 12.Jamal Jack, 4.Andre Ettienne, 3.Keion Goodridge; 2.Elton John, 10.Marvin Oliver; 11.Darren Mitchell (14.Nicholas Dillon 90), 45.Ataulla Guerra, 99.Marcus Joseph (6.Kerry Baptiste 88); 33.Willis Plaza (26.Jem Gordon 78).
Unused substitutes: 30.Akel Clarke (GK), 17.Marcelle Francois, 19.Nathaniel Garcia, 24.Kevon Villaroel
Coach: Ross Russell
Comunicaciones (4-3-3): 1.Fredy Perez (GK); 3.Wilson Lalin, 12.Jean Marquez (6.Carlos Mejia 6), 13.Carlos Castrillo, 14.Rafael Marquez; 25.Jorge Aparicio, 28.Francisco Burgos, 29.Carlos Figueroa; 77.Jairo Arreola (24.Kendell Herrarte 64), 9.Rolando Blackburn (18.Emiliano Lopez 69), 11.Agustin Herrera.
Unused substitutes: 23.Mynor Padilla (GK), 2.Ruben Morales, 15.Jose Del Aguila, 17.Bryan Ordonez.
Coach: Willian Coito
Referee: John Pitti (Panama)