There were as many as 10 past and present international frontmen involved in last night’s TT Pro League double header at the Ato Boldon Stadium in Couva. Fans confronted with that statistic might not have known whether to laugh or cry.
By the time the stadium officials dimmed the lights, DIRECTV W Connection had climbed to second place, courtesy of a 1-0 win over second from bottom Point Fortin Civic, while sixth place Police FC pulled closer to the top half of the table with a 2-1 triumph against Morvant Caledonia United.
But it is hard to think that any coach left Couva happy last night.
In Jamaica, defending Pro League and Caribbean champions, Bankers Insurance Central FC, mauled Cayman Islands team, Scholars FC, 6-0 in their opening Caribbean Club Championship fixture.
Just one point tomorrow against hosts, Montego Bay United, will take the “Couva Sharks” safely to the semifinal round where they are favourites to defend their regional title.
There was not such a rosy picture of the Pro League in Couva last night and the players were not the only ones at fault.
Two refereeing decisions within five minutes of each other, during the first half, might have a huge impact on the meeting between Morvant Caledonia and Police.
In the 35th minute, Caledonia utility player Jameel Neptune found space in the opposing penalty area and, with just Police goalkeeper Adrian Foncette to beat, he passed to his right to present teammate and makeshift forward Robert Primus with a tap in.
There was not another Police defender in sight. But had Primus really strayed ahead of the passer? It was a very tight offside call.
There was less incentive to give referee Callum Marshall the benefit of the doubt for his second decision in the 40th minute.
Police left back Dexter Alleyne was screening the ball near the touchline while Caledonia attacker Kareem Knights buzzed around him like a wasp, trying to steal possession.
Inexplicably, Alleyne flung his arm back and decked his scrawny opponent with the sort of blow that could easily leave a player concussed.
Marshall had a private chat with Alleyne but, bizarrely, did not show any card at all, much less the red that it probably warranted.
In fact, the Lawmen might have been grateful to the officials that the fixture played at all, after they showed up with a royal blue jersey which was so close to the colour of Caledonia’s kit that there was a brief standoff and kick off was delayed.
The Police squad had bright red jerseys waiting for them in the dressing room at halftime, though, and they emerged a changed outfit after the break, in more ways than one.
Within four minutes, they were ahead, as Kareem Freitas flicked a pass to striker Jameel Perry on the break and the lanky frontman blasted below the body of Caledonia custodian Marvin Phillip.
And, two minutes later, Police doubled their lead as Perry took advantage of a defensive error to set up a sitter for teammate Makesi Lewis, who buried his 17th league goal this season—four more than the league’s second highest scorer and Central attacker, Marcus Joseph.
Lewis, who was called up by the Trinidad and Tobago National Senior Team for the first time yesterday morning, celebrated with a half wine and a chook by the corner flag.
Yet, it was the Police player that national coach Stephen Hart overlooked, Foncette, who had the biggest impact yesterday with a near flawless performance.
Caledonia playmaker Akim Armstrong was in top form as the “Eastern Stallions” pinned Police back for long periods before Neptune finally finished off an Otev Lawrence cross in stoppage time.
Too little, too late for the Stallions. But the win flattered Police.
In the second match of the double header, Connection fielded five international attackers—Shahdon Winchester, Jomal Williams, Jabari Mitchell, Isaiah Hudson (all Trinidad and Tobago), Jamal Charles (Grenada) and Dimitrie Apai (Suriname)—and produced a ludicrously woeful display of finishing.
At the other end, Point Fortin Civic used former Trinidad and Tobago youth and senior international forwards, Shackiel Henry and Sylvester Teesdale respectively, alongside Juma Clarence, who scored for T&T against Italy at the Egypt 2009 FIFA Under-20 World Cup.
Yet, Civic, whose 18 goals from 21 matches is the lowest return of any Pro League team this season, again barely troubled their opponents, apart from the odd long range effort. And they failed to take advantage of two careless errors by young Connection defender Triston Hodge.
It is hard to tell which group of attackers felt more dispirited by the final whistle. But surely it was the “Savonetta Boys” who felt more embarrassed.
Hudson, who is just 15 years old and a Naparima College schoolboy, almost got his first Pro League goal in the 22nd minute with a volley on the turn, only to be denied acrobatically by Civic custodian Miles Goodman.
It was a rare show of precision.
Two minutes later, Connection left back Kurt Frederick picked out Apai all alone on the far post inside the six yard box. Apai hit wide.
And Charles mirrored his effort as he sliced wide from the same distance in the 44th minute, after a cross from Connection right back Alvin Jones.
Connection coach Stuart Charles-Fevrier sent on his two leading scorers, Jomal Williams and Shahdon Winchester, at the interval. But, remarkably, it did not get better for Connection.
In the 75th minute, Apai crossed to Williams who, alone in the box, opened his body for his trademark finish at the far post but missed the entire target, to howls of disbelief from the stands.
And there was only stony silence, in second half stoppage time, as Winchester broke the offside trap, strolled into the Civic box and also missed the entire frame of the goal.
Connection failed to score twice in their three previous Pro League outings. Only a 50th minute finish from Apai, after another glorious Frederick cross, spared them from another blank last night.
Winchester and Williams, who are both in the “Soca Warriors” team to face Grenada on March 19, have scored just once each in Connection’s last six league games now.
Connection, at least, were able to console themselves with three points.
Point Fortin Civic (4-4-2): 1.Miles Goodman (GK); 11.Tigana Sparks (20.Jamille Boatswain 70), 7.Nickcolson Thomas, 19.Andrei Pacheco (captain), 21.Ronell Paul; 9.Shakiel Henry (12.Glenn Sutton 47), 16.Kelvin Modeste, 32.Jamal John (6.Jayson Joseph 60), 8.Akeem Redhead; 29.Sylvester Teesdale, 24.Juma Clarence.
Unused substitutes: 52.Akini Adams (GK), 3.Kurfi Pierre, 26.Kerne George, 31.Shaquille Dublin.
Coach: Leroy De Leon
W Connection (4-2-3-1): 1.Terrence Lewis (GK); 16.Alvin Jones, 3.Gerard Williams, 5.Triston Hodge, 2.Kurt Frederick; 26.Paolo De La Guardia, 13.Hughtun Hector (captain); 12.Dimitrie Apai, 32.Isaiah Hudson (10.Jomal Williams 46), 34.Jabari Mitchell (25.Daneil Cyrus 65); 20.Jamal Charles (9.Shahdon Winchester 46).
Unused substitutes: 22.Aquelius Sylvester (GK), 8.Briel Thomas, 17.Aikim Andrews, 27.Jelani Peters.
Coach: Stuart Charles-Fevrier
Referee: Rashby McPhie
Man of the match: Kurt Frederick (W Connection)
TT Pro League results
(Friday March 11)
Morvant Caledonia Utd 1 (Jameel Neptune 90), Police FC 2 (Jameel Perry 49, Makesi Lewis 51) at Ato Boldon Stadium;
W Connection 1 (Dimitrie Apai 50), Point Fortin Civic 0 at Ato Boldon Stadium;
(Saturday March 12)
San Juan Jabloteh v Defence Force, 6.30 pm, Barataria Recreation Ground.[standings league_id=2 template=compact logo=true]