DIRECTV W Connection and defending TT Pro League champions Bankers Insurance Central FC failed to make much ground on 2015/16 Pro League leaders Defence Force yesterday, as the second and third-placed teams finished the “Couva Clásico” in a 1-1 draw at the Ato Boldon Stadium in Couva.
Defence Force coach Marvin Gordon left the same Couva venue fuming on Friday night, as his team conceded a controversial late penalty to surrender a possible victory over Club Sando. But the “Army” coach can rest a bit easier tonight as his team’s closest challengers were unable to capitalise.
In truth, the Clásico was no classic, although the 90 minutes still provided a few key talking points.
After conceding a 38th minute item by ex-employee Dwight Quintero, Central striker Marcus “Lobo” Joseph won a penalty in the 68th minute after Connection made a meal of what looked to be a straightforward clearance.
Referee Callum Marshall swiftly pointed to the penalty spot despite the vociferous protests from Connection’s Gerard Williams. Williams’ angry protest continued, even as Central’s Ataulla Guerra clinically deposited the spot kick past opposing goalkeeper Terrence Lewis.
The second big talking point came roughly ten minutes later, as swashbuckling Central utility player Jamal Jack lunged in on Williams in the Connection half.
Jack, who operated in central midfield yesterday, was promptly shown his second yellow card although the combative Williams appeared to successfully evade the tackle.
“I consider it two points dropped because I think if we had put away our chances today we would have gotten three points,” Central coach Dale Saunders told Wired868. “I think the red card in the second half set us back a lot.”
With the two big talking points aside, there was little for the healthy Ato Boldon crowd to shout about as both teams found it difficult to strike up any real rhythm for sustained periods in a game that featured hard, early pressing from both teams.
“It was a tactical game because it was two top of the table teams and both teams wanted to win the game,” Saunders said.
Guerra and fellow midfielder Darren Mitchell were lively in the opening moments though. The former player nearly opened the scoring in the 15th minute, as he jinxed past his marker and fired a rasping left-footed shot that evaded Lewis and the crossbar.
Joseph was then gifted a free crack at goal from long range just five minutes later, as Williams headed a Jan-Michael Williams clearance right into his path. However, the former 2009 World Youth Cup player was unable to make Gerard pay as, with Lewis six yards off his goal line, Lobo screwed his left-footed shot well wide of the goal.
The deadlock was finally broken in the 38th minute as Quintero smartly guided a low, left side cross by defender Kurt Frederick past Jan-Michael and into the far corner.
The former Central marksman had bitten the hands that once fed him, and it was not for the first time this season either. Quintero scored a pivotal regulation time equaliser in Connection’s Toyota Classic semi-final win over Central in November, en route to clinching that knock out title.
The “Savonetta Boys” would have gone in to the interval 2-nil up, if not for a mammoth save from point-blank range by Jan-Michael in the 42nd minute.
The “Soca Warriors” number one used every inch of his big frame to stop a Frederick strike, after the St Lucian defender linked up nicely with attacker Jomal Williams down the left.
Connection seemed to lack incisiveness up top without the threat of speedy attackers Neil Benjamin Jr and Shahdon Winchester. But their third attacking wheel, Jomal, nearly left his signature on the game in the 82nd minute.
The tricky Jomal, who also goes by the soubriquet ‘Bebo’, nonchalantly dragged the ball past Central defender Akeem Benjamin at the edge of the area before bending a sweet, right-footed shot just over the angle of post and bar with his namesake, Jan-Michael, left without a prayer.
It was nearly a spectacular end to an unspectacular contest.
Central’s no-nonsense centre back Andre Ettienne also tried his luck at the audacious with an 89th minute free kick from half line, but Lewis preserved the stalemate as he back-pedalled to calmly catch the ball a few yards off his goal line.
Saunders reflected on what could have been.
“In the attacking third we could have been a little more patient on the ball to get the free man to get the goal,” said Saunders. “However the race is not for the swift but who endures to the end.”
Elsewhere at the Larry Gomes Stadium, Morvant Caledonia United coach Jerry Moe may have whispered a philosophical word to Guyanese attacker Sheldon Holder, as the lanky forward notched a first half double to help pip St Ann’s Rangers 2-1.
Caledonia’s third league win of the season sees them swapping spots with Rangers, who now sit at the bottom of the Pro League table with just nine points after 13 matches.
W Connection (4-2-3-1): 1.Terrence Lewis (GK); 21.Shannon Gomez, 3.Gerard Williams, 5.Triston Hodge, 2.Kurt Frederick; 16.Alvin Jones (captain), 23.Kevon Goddard (8.Briel Thomas 60); 12.Dimitrie Apai (32.Isaiah Hudson 74), 14.Andre Toussaint (17.Aikim Andrews 60), 10.Jomal Williams; 19.Dwight Quintero.
Unused Substitutes: 22.Aquelius Sylvester (GK), 4.Maurice Ford, 34.Jabari Mitchell, 46.Anfernee Frederick.
Coach: Stuart Charles-Fevrier
Central FC (4-2-3-1): 21.Jan-Michael Williams (GK) (captain); 15.Kaydion Gabriel, 4.Andre Ettienne, 5.Akeem Benjamin, 24.Kevon Villaroel; 12.Jamal Jack, 25.Elijah Manners (7.Jason Marcano 50); 11.Darren Mitchell, 45.Ataulla Guerra, 9.Kadeem Corbin (19.Nathaniel Garcia 54); 99.Marcus Joseph.
Unused Substitutes: 30.Akel Clarke (GK), 10.Marvin Oliver, 14.Nicholas Dillon, 22.Leston Paul, 26.Jem Gordon.
Coach: Dale Saunders
Referee: Callum Marshall
Man of the Match: Kurt Frederick (DIRECTV W Connection)
TT Pro League results
(Sunday January 24)
St Ann’s Rangers 1 (Kadeem Hutchinson 35), Morvant Caledonia United 2 (Sheldon Holder 14, 33) at Larry Gomes Stadium;
Central FC 1 (Ataulla Guerra 64 pen), W Connection 1 (Dwight Quintero 38) at Ato Boldon Stadium;
(Saturday January 23)
North East Stars 0, Point Fortin Civic 0 at Larry Gomes Stadium;
(Friday January 22)
Defence Force 1 (Sean Narcis 57), Club Sando 1 (Devon Modeste 89 pen) at Ato Boldon Stadium;
San Juan Jabloteh 4 (Nathan Lewis 6, 60, Sean Bonval 9, Adrian Reid 90 pen), Police FC 2 (Makesi Lewis 37, Kareem Freitas 49) at Ato Boldon Stadium;
(Tuesday January 26)
Defence Force v Police FC, 3.30 pm, Larry Gomes Stadium;
Point Fortin Civic v Club Sando, 6 pm, Mahaica Oval;
(Wednesday January 27)
St Ann’s Rangers v W Connection, 3.30 pm, Larry Gomes Stadium;
Morvant Caledonia United v North East Stars, 6 pm, Ato Boldon Stadium;
Central FC v San Juan Jabloteh, 8 pm, Ato Boldon Stadium.