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Sizzling start to First Citizens Cup: Army and Central motor on to quarters

Defending champions, Central FC, and Defence Force both advanced to the First Citizens Cup quarterfinal round yesterday after triumphs over North East Stars and San Juan Jabloteh respectively at the Hasely Crawford Stadium in Port of Spain.

And, judging from the quality of the goals yesterday, there will be more than a little incentive for supporters to follow the next round of matches.

Three contenders for goal of the season scored in one night? Bawh.

Photo: Defence Force custodian Sheldon Clarke (right) makes a vain effort to block a free kick from San Juan Jabloteh's Tyrone Charles in First Citizens Cup action last night. Looking on is Jabloteh's Keyon Edwards (centre) and Defence Force's Jelani Felix. (Courtesy Chevaughn Christopher/Wired868)
Photo: Defence Force custodian Sheldon Clarke (right) makes a vain effort to block a free kick from San Juan Jabloteh’s Tyrone Charles in First Citizens Cup action last night.
Looking on is Jabloteh’s Keyon Edwards (centre) and Defence Force’s Jelani Felix.
(Courtesy Chevaughn Christopher/Wired868)

North East Stars playmaker Keron “Ball Pest” Cummings probably shades the individual highlight reel competition for now, though.

In the 40th minute, and with Stars already two goals behind, Cummings chased a ball to the edge of the opposing penalty box and used one touch to flick it over the head of Central defender Jamal Jack before catching the ball—on the other side of the defender—with a smashing left volley that Trinidad and Tobago international goalkeeper Jan-Michael Williams might only have glimpsed as it flew past him and into the corner.

It was not enough to save Stars from an early elimination but it was surely worth the price of admission.

Trinidad and Tobago National Senior Team coach Stephen Hart must have jumped off his seat in the covered stands.

The 2015/16 Pro League season is barely under way and rust was inevitable yesterday. But the lure of the first trophy of the season and the overall winner’s cash prize of $110,000 prompted positive play from all four teams.

Photo: San Juan Jabloteh coach Keith Jeffrey (right) offers encouragement to his troops during their First Citizens Cup loss to Defence Force last night. (Courtesy Chevaughn Christopher/Wired868)
Photo: San Juan Jabloteh coach Keith Jeffrey (right) offers encouragement to his troops during their First Citizens Cup loss to Defence Force last night.
(Courtesy Chevaughn Christopher/Wired868)

The tournament’s catchphrase, “No room for losers” was self-explanatory. And, by the end of the night, Jabloteh and Stars had been ushered through the exits.

It would be unfair to say that Stars went meekly but, Cummings apart, the Sangre Grande-based team just did not have the tools for the job against the defending champions and Pro League title holders.

Almost from the kick off, the “Couva Sharks” asserted their superiority in the contest.

Sean De Silva whipped a deep free kick into the Stars’ 18-yard box and Jack headed across goal for the evergreen Marvin Oliver to nod home.

Stars, who are now coached by former assistant Roland Clarke, turned up at the Hasely Crawford with a ridiculous outfit that married a yellow shirt with similar coloured numbers. It made it almost impossible for anyone in the stands—including the media—to read jersey numbers and, had it been a CONCACAF contest, the Grande team would have been promptly ordered to track down a replacement.

So there was a case for anonymity from the Stars defence when De Silva worked a one-two with Oliver, took the ball on his chest and sauntered into the opposing area to prod the second goal past goalkeeper Cleon John.

Photo: North East Stars midfielder Kaashif Thomas (right) tries to close down Central FC's Sean De Silva (centre) during Pro League action last season. Looking on is Central midfielder Ataulla Guerra. (Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)
Photo: North East Stars midfielder Kaashif Thomas (right) tries to close down Central FC’s Sean De Silva (centre) during Pro League action last season.
Looking on is Central midfielder Ataulla Guerra.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)

It was De Silva’s third goal of the domestic season while he assisted on Central’s other two items. If that is not a hot streak then it will do until one gets here.

Cummings upstaged the Central midfielder and everyone else on the field with two touches of the ball in the 40th minute. The first flicked it over Jack’s head and the second crashed the sphere beyond Williams.

Ball Pest doesn’t need an easily identifiable shirt number. His left foot is like a fingerprint.

It was not enough to bridge the gulf in class between the two teams yesterday though.

“Soca Warrior” Willis Plaza scored his third goal in successive matches for Central in the 68th minute after he ran on to a diagonal, lofted pass to convert from close range. Somehow, Plaza managed to leave Stars central defender Carey Brown in a heap on the ground and then fake John out of the boots before he had even laid a boot on the ball.

Either Plaza is studying Jedi mind tricks now or opposing defenders and goalkeepers have decided that resistance is futile.

Photo: Central FC striker Willis Plaza (left) gives LA Galaxy defender David Romney the slip during CONCACAF Champions League action last week. (Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)
Photo: Central FC striker Willis Plaza (left) gives LA Galaxy defender David Romney the slip during CONCACAF Champions League action last week.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)

In stoppage time, Plaza got his double as he spun between two defenders—in that typically breezy manner of his—before tucking past John.

Young strikers should be at every Central game with pen and paper. Plaza’s movement off the ball should be a CSEC subject for Secondary Schools Football League (SSFL) players.

The earlier outing between Jabloteh and Defence Force was more competitive. And, although there was no obvious stand-out player, there were some spectacular goals.

Defence Force coach Marvin Gordon might have felt especially proud of his team’s opener, which came right off their training ground in Carenage.

One soldier ran over a dead ball and another passed it diagonally for Aklie Edwards who crossed for towering “Army” central defender Glen Franklin to head past Jabloteh goalkeeper Shemel Louison for the opening goal.

Photo: San Juan Jabloteh midfielder Kennedy Hinkson (centre) finds himself at the bottom of an aerial challenge from Defence Force winger Kerry Joseph in First Citizens Cup action last night. (Courtesy Chevaughn Christopher/Wired868)
Photo: San Juan Jabloteh midfielder Kennedy Hinkson (centre) finds himself at the bottom of an aerial challenge from Defence Force winger Kerry Joseph in First Citizens Cup action last night.
(Courtesy Chevaughn Christopher/Wired868)

But Jabloteh’s equaliser, five minutes later, was something else.

Tyrone Charles is a bonafide set piece specialist and has scored a couple of beauties in his time. But it would be hard to top his strike last night, as his curling effort from the edge of the area hit the sweet spot between the post and upright before going in.

Even if Italian icon Andrea Pirlo was allowed to use his hand, walk right up to the frame of the goal and toss it in, he could not place it more accurately into the corner.

Franklin struck again for Defence Force in the 66th minute but this time it was a case of criminal defending. Kerry Joseph swung a free kick into the opposing box and it beat two Jabloteh defenders before popping in off Franklin’s shin at the far post.

Some guys have all the luck. Defence Force captain Jerwyn Balthazar did things the hard way as he collected the ball in space, 35 yards out, and beat Jabloteh custodian Shemel Louison with a thumping strike into the far corner.

Photo: Defence Force coach Marvin Gordon (third from left) and his substitutes' bench erupts after Jerwyn Balthazar's screaming strike against San Juan Jabloteh last night. (Courtesy Chevaughn Christopher/Wired868)
Photo: Defence Force coach Marvin Gordon (third from left) and his substitutes’ bench erupts after Jerwyn Balthazar’s screaming strike against San Juan Jabloteh last night.
(Courtesy Chevaughn Christopher/Wired868)

On any other night, Balthazar’s goal would have been the topic of conversation as spectators headed home. But the bar was set quite high yesterday.

Jabloteh, who played some neat football but ultimately lacked leadership and cutting edge, did create a heated finish to the game with a last gasp goal.

Jamaican substitute Fabian Reid hit a bicycle kick towards the far corner that Defence Force custodian Sheldon Clarke clawed away, only for Reid’s compatriot, Ricardo Harriott, to stab home the loose ball.

It was not enough to rescue Jabloteh’s cup run, though, as Defence Force advanced to the quarterfinal round.

Defence Force will face Morvant Caledonia United on October 16 while Central challenges Police on the same day. In two other fixtures on that day, St Ann’s Rangers  and Club Sando will do battle while DIRECTV W Connection tackles Point Fortin Civic in the final quarterfinal clash.

(Teams)

Defence Force (4-2-3-1): 25.Sheldon Clarke (GK); 13.Marvin Jones, 8.Curtis Gonzales (captain), 2.Glen Franklin, 21.Aklie Edwards; 4.Dave Long (52.Stephan Campbell 86), 18.Sean Narcis (12.Jemel Sebro 64); 23.Kerry Joseph, 99.Jerwyn Balthazar, 7.Jelani Felix; 9.Devorn Jorsling (26.Richard Roy 46).

Unused substitutes: 80.Aaron Enil (GK), 6.Rodell Elcock, 17.Ross Russell Jr, 30.Kishun Seecharan.

Coach: Marvin Gordon

 

San Juan Jabloteh (4-2-3-1): 30.Shemel Louison (GK); 11.Damian Williams (captain), 24.Adrian Reid (5.Ricardo Harriott), 21.Aquil Selby, 22.Caleb Sturge; 18.Jevon Morris (13.Fabian Reid 70), 8.Keyon Edwards; 27.Nathan Lewis, 10.Tyrone Charles, 23.Kennedy Hinkson; 7.Jamal Gay (12.Jordan Devonish).

Unused substitutes: 36.Raheem Belgrave (GK), 6.Ramone McGregor, 15.Isaiah McIntyre, 16.Kaashif Thomas.

Coach: Keith Jeffrey

 

Referee: Dave Daniel

Man of the Match: Jerwyn Balthazar (Defence Force)

Photo: San Juan Jabloteh captain Damian Williams (foreground) prepares to drive a cross into the opposing penalty area during First Citizens Cup action against Defence Force last night. (Courtesy Chevaughn Christopher/Wired868)
Photo: San Juan Jabloteh captain Damian Williams (foreground) prepares to drive a cross into the opposing penalty area during First Citizens Cup action against Defence Force last night.
(Courtesy Chevaughn Christopher/Wired868)

First Citizen Cup qualifying round

(Wednesday October 30)

Defence Force 3 (Glen Franklin 53, 66, Jerwyn Balthazar 79), San Juan Jabloteh 2 (Tyrone Charles 58, Ricardo Harriott 90) at Hasely Crawford Stadium;

Central FC 4 (Marvin Oliver 2, Sean De Silva 18, Willis Plaza 69, 90), North East Stars 1 (Keron Cummings 40) at Hasely Crawford Stadium.

AboutLasana Liburd

Lasana Liburd
Lasana Liburd is the CEO and Editor at Wired868.com and a journalist with over 20 years experience at several Trinidad and Tobago and international publications including Play the Game, World Soccer, UK Guardian and the Trinidad Express.

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9 comments

  1. It is a crime that they didn’t pick up Balthazar’s cracker though Nigel Myers. Roneil K Walcott, I can only hope Jabloteh works that out soon.

    • This is another area for the Pro League to improve. I know they have given match highlights in the past, but it was never in a timely fashion. Sometimes it would be 7-10 days before you see them, by which time you didn’t care. They could also highlights Goals of the Week, Save of the Week, Plays of the Week, Team of the Week etc. When they do Player of the Month, they should do a video recapping the player’s exploits. All of this could help to generate more interest.

  2. Great article as usual. But Fabian Reid surely has to be a starter for Jabloteh.

  3. Point still has Shackiel Henry, Jamille Boatswain, Akeem Redhead, Kevin Modeste and Kelvin Modeste. So they aren’t that threadbare although they lost a lot of experience and quality.

  4. Hmm didn’t even realize my boy Jamal Gay at Jabloteh now

    Except for maybe Point – teams have made some interesting acquisitions this season

    • I don’t know why the Pro League doesn’t summarize the the transfer activity that takes place. Apart from one or two press releases from clubs, you typically have to stumble upon a players name in a match report to find out that they moved.