Defending champions, Central FC, squeezed into the semifinals of the First Citizens Cup last night via kicks from the penalty mark, after they were held 2-2 by Police FC at the Hasely Crawford Stadium in Port of Spain.
Not for the first time, Central captain and Trinidad and Tobago custodian Jan-Michael Williams came up trumps with a vital save in the shoot-out as the “Couva Sharks” booked a final four date with newcomers, Club Sando.
Club Sando secured their own semifinal berth on the back of a Kevon Woodley hattrick as the San Fernando-based club defeated St Ann’s Rangers 3-1 at Mahaica Oval on Saturday.
The other First Citizens Cup semifinal matchup pits DIRECTV W Connection against old rivals Morvant/Caledonia AIA.
Connection cruised to a 3-1 win over Point Fortin Civic at Mahaica on Saturday after one goal apiece from Jomal Williams, captain Alvin Jones and Shahdon Winchester.
Surprisingly, Caledonia’s progress was almost as straightforward yesterday as the “Eastern Stallions” eliminated Defence Force at the Hasely Crawford Stadium.
Sharp and purposeful, Caledonia overran the “Teteron Boys” in midfield and deservedly went ahead in the 37th minute as Eugene Kirwan cheekily backheeled a Jamaal Harvey cross into the back of the net, after he initially scoffed his first effort.
Kirwan is an Antiguan international while Harvey hails from Guyana.
There was another flash of flair from the islands, a minute later, as Kittian Kennedy Isles slammed a volley off the far post. But Caledonia’s second goal had more than a touch of local talent about it.
Caledonia and Trinidad and Tobago international goalkeeper Marvin Phillip launched a counter attack with a punt into the other half of the field and Kirwan held up the ball well before a backheeled pass to veteran midfielder and ex-World Cup 2006 player Densill Theobald, who quickly released Akeem Roach in the opposing penalty area.
And Roach, who represented Defence Force last season, produced a composed finish to double Caledonia’s advantage.
Defence Force coach Marvin Gordon introduced prolific veteran striker Devorn Jorsling at the interval, as the soldiers swapped their initial 4-2-3-1 formation for 3-5-2.
But Phillip, who was well guarded by Caledonia and St Kitts and Nevis defender Ordell Flemming, was equal to the task.
And Richard Roy’s close range finish in second half stoppage time came too late to affect the final outcome.
The second game of the Port of Spain double header was a tenser affair, as Central struggled to shake off a stubborn Police team.
The “Lawmen” struck first as captain Todd Ryan beat opposing skipper, Williams, with a well struck 20-yard free kick in the 41st minute that squeezed in off the near upright, despite a touch from the Central custodian.
But, three minutes into the second half, Central equalised as Marvin Oliver met an inswinging Marcus Joseph free kick with a firm header that flew in off the underside of the bar.
Police were incensed that the free kick was awarded at all, as Joseph made a meal of a Christon Thomas challenge, and goalkeeper Andre Foncette was booked after he made his disgust clear to the match referee.
Things got even worse for Police in the 79th minute as substitute Willis Plaza thumped home an angled strike after busy midfielder Sean De Silva struck an upright.
It was Plaza’s fifth goal in his last four games for the Sharks.
Police’s chance seemed to have come and gone when Thomas wriggled clear on the flank and pulled the ball back to midfielder Kurdell “Shadow” Brathwaite, only for the latter player to hit overbar with Williams caught out of position.
But, in the 89th minute, substitute Keon Wilson brought Police back level with a predatory finish at the far post as a spliced Thomas effort crept through a crowd of Central defenders.
Cue penalty kicks.
There were over 800 patrons at the stadium who appreciated the unpredictable nature of the game. But, as the game headed to kicks from penalty mark, it was always likely that the huge figure of the Central goalkeeper, Williams, would be decisive eventually.
Police scored their first three efforts but defender Jasimar Ashers skied his effort, after a stuttering run up, while fellow substitute Kareem Freitas, after an eternity to settle on a spot to place the ball, was denied by a flying save to Williams’ right.
And Central, who were flawless from the penalty mark, were through to the round of four.
Central FC (4-2-3-1): 21.Jan-Michael Williams (GK); 5.Akeem Benjamin, 12.Jamal Jack, 17.Marcelle Francois, 24.Kevon Villaroel; 22.Leston Paul, 2.Elton John; 7.Jason Marcano (11.Darren Mitchell 70), 10.Marvin Oliver, 8.Sean De Silva; 99.Marcus Joseph (33.Willis Plaza 56).
Unused substitutes: 30.Akel Clarke (GK), 6.Kerry Baptiste, 15.Kaydion Gabriel, 19.Nathaniel Garcia, 26.Jem Gordon,
Coach: Ross Russell
Police FC (4-2-1-3): 18.Adrian Foncette (GK); 6.Jibiri McDavid, 5.Anton Hutchinson, 20.Elijah Belgrave, 19.Christon Thomas; 31.Todd Ryan (captain), 8.Kurdell Brathwaite (2.Jasimar Ashers 88); 9.Makesi Lewis (39.Keon Wilson 83); 11.Shaquille Nesbitt (10.Kareem Freitas 70), 15.Jameel Perry, 29.Clevon McFee.
Unused substitutes: 1.Akeemo Williams (GK), 23.Kevin Lewis, 36.Dylon King, 38.Kadeem Boyce.
Coach: Richard Hood
Man of the Match: Jan-Michael Williams (Central FC)
First Citizens Cup quarterfinals
(Saturday October 17)
Club Sando 3 (Kevon Woodley 46, 80, 90+), St Ann’s Rangers 1 (Rasheed Simon 60) at Mahaica Oval;
Point Fortin Civic 1 (Glen Sutton 76), W Connection 3 (Jomal Williams 5, Alvin Jones 9, Shahdon Winchester 56) at Mahaica Oval;
(Sunday October 18)
Morvant/Caledonia United 2 (Eugene Kirwan 37, Akeem Roach 40), Defence Force 1 (Richard Roy 90) at Hasely Crawford Stadium;
Police FC 2 (Todd Ryan 41, Keon Wilson 89), Central FC 2 (Marvin Oliver 49, Willis Plaza 79) at Hasely Crawford Stadium;
*–Central FC won 4-3 on kicks from the penalty mark.