Defending TT Pro League champions Bankers Central FC stayed within three points of table toppers Defence Force yesterday with a 3-1 victory over St Ann’s Rangers at the Ato Boldon Stadium in Couva.
The Army/Coast Guard combination wrapped up the Rawle Fletcher Trophy—the $50,000 reward for the winner of the Pro League’s first round—on Friday with a thumping 8-0 win over Morvant Caledonia United. But second placed Police FC and third placed Central stayed within striking distance of the league leaders with victories of their own.
The “Couva Sharks”, now under the stewardship of Dale Saunders, had little worries throughout the 90 minutes last night, as they totally dominated Rangers en route to a comfortable victory.
Goals by Sean De Silva, Darren Mitchell and Jason Marcano put Central firmly in the ascendancy before Rangers substitute Trevin Latapy was gifted a consolation item in the 79th minute.
The news was not as good for Central’s Couva rivals, DIRECTV W Connection, as they were stunned 1-0 by newly promoted outfit, Club Sando, in the opening game of the double header.
Devon Modeste got the decisive goal for Sando against a Connection team that missed their offensive pair of Shahdon Winchester and FCB and Toyota Cup MVP Jomal Williams—who scored nine of Connection’s 13 league goals thus far this season but were on international duty with Trinidad and Tobago.
Central made lighter work of their own absentees, as the defending champs were without star striker Willis Plaza, who has transferred to Salvadorian club Alianza FC, and the pair of playmaker Ataulla Guerra and goalkeeper Jan-Michael Williams, who were both with the “Soca Warriors.”
In their places, Akel Clarke started in goal while Leston Paul played alongside Marvin Oliver in midfield and Jason Marcano operated as a lone striker.
The opening goal was a gift as Rangers defender Shakiyl Phillip twisted and turned under pressure in his defensive third before playing an ill-advised pass across the penalty box. And De Silva took full advantage as he latched on to the errant pass in the 10th minute to hit a disdainful finish past Stefan Berkeley and give the Sharks an early lead.
Rangers, coached by Angus Eve, were struggling to keep possession against a very disciplined and determined Central outfit.
Mitchell and De Silva were moving smoothly in the Central midfield and the latter nearly doubled his tally in the 26th minute, as he side-stepped a defender before skimming the upright with a fierce, left-footed shot.
Oliver also had a chance to give the Sharks some cushion before the interval, but “The Big Dread” shot over bar from six yards after being found beautifully by the tricky Marcano from the by-line.
It was only a matter of time before the defending champions got on the scoresheet again with their efficient ball movement.
Berkeley did his best to keep the Sharks at bay, as he thwarted a curling effort by Marcano in the 58th minute. However, the former North East Stars keeper was hapless to stop Mitchell, four minutes later, as the speedster finished from close range after some confident head tennis between Marcano and Oliver on the edge of the area.
The Sharks were threatening to open the floodgates by then, as both Marcano and substitute Marcus Joseph came close to scoring less than five minutes after their team’s second item.
Marcano did get his just reward in the 70th minute as he finished clinically after a rampaging run from centre-back Jamal Jack ripped through the Rangers midfield.
Jack’s defensive partner, Andre Ettienne, did not cover himself in glory, nine minutes later, as he combined with goalkeeper Akel Clarke to present Latapy with an open goal. The Rangers sub almost could not believe his luck but embraced the reality in the nick of time to poke the ball across the goal line and grant his team a consolation item.
There was a terrible misjudgment at the back in the first game of the Ato Boldon double header too, as W Connection goalkeeper Terrence Lewis gifted a resolute Club Sando their second consecutive win of the season.
The Pro League newcomers rarely ventured near Lewis’ penalty area, but when the Connection custodian palmed a left sided cross by Kemeul Rivers into Modeste’s path, in the 36th minute, the Sando striker made no mistake.
Connection lacked penetration up top without Winchester and Williams (J) and even lively second half cameos by Aikim Andrews and 15 year-old Naparima College schoolboy Isaiah Hudson could not bring the elusive equalizer for Connection.
Elsewhere, Makesi Lewis continued his brilliant start to the season as he started and ended the scoring in Police FC’s thrilling 3-2 win over Point Fortin Civic at the Larry Gomes Stadium.
The striker has now taken his league tally to eleven goals with yesterday’s double and might be catching the eye of the now-retired Superintendent Johnny Abraham with his sharpshooting.
Lewis’ clinical and potent shooting should make him a candidate for the best player of the Pro League’s first round.
There is a $10,000 cash prize for the best player of each round and the Lawman’s chances are as good as any.
Central FC (4-3-2-1): 30.Akel Clarke (GK); 15.Kaydion Gabriel, 12.Jamal Jack, 4.Andre Ettienne, 3.Keion Goodridge; 11.Darren Mitchell, 2.Elton John, 8.Sean De Silva (99.Marcus Joseph 63); 10.Marvin Oliver, 22.Leston Paul (captain) (19.Nathaniel Garcia 74); 7.Jason Marcano (14.Nicholas Dillon 80.
Unused Substitutes: 1.Javon Sample (GK), 5.Akeem Benjamin, 24.Kevon Villaroel, 25.Elijah Manners.
Coach: Dale Saunders
St Ann’s Rangers (4-1-4-1): 1.Stefan Berkeley (GK); 16.Richard Williams, 2.Shakiyl Phillip, 4.Jelani Peters, 44.Sedale McLean; 5.Miguel Romeo (captain); 8.Kevon Piper (6.Shaquille Moses 73), 9.Keron Cornwall, 23.Sayid Freitas, 44.Shaquille Williams (18.Trevin Latapy 46); 17.Kadeem Hutchinson (29.Jameel Antoine 73).
Unused Substitutes: 22.Christopher Biggette (GK), 21.Keon Peters, 30.Chevon Le Gendre.
Coach: Angus Eve
Referee: Keilon Bacchus
Man of the Match: Jason Marcano (Central FC)
TT Pro League Results
(Saturday January 9)
Police FC 3 (Makesi Lewis 1, 90, Elijah Belgrave 81), Point Fortin Civic 2 (Kerwin Stafford 57, Akeem Redhead 64) at Larry Gomes Stadium;
Club Sando 1 (Devon Modeste 36), DIREC TV W Connection 0 at Ato Boldon Stadium;
Bankers Central FC 3 (Sean De Silva 10, Darren Mitchell 62, Jason Marcano 70), St Ann’s Rangers 1 (Trevin Latapy 79) at Ato Boldon Stadium.