There might be three constants in life on the two island republic at present: death, rising taxes and Central FC taking three points.
After 10 rounds of 2016/17 Pro League matches—and with just eight games left in the regular season—the “Couva Sharks” remain unbeaten in the league competition and already have a comfortable six point lead at the top of the table.
Central’s 2-1 victory over rivals DIRECTV W Connection on Monday night was their fifth win on the trot and their second triumph in as many meetings against their bitter Couva-based rivals.
Even more ominously, Central seem capable of picking up three points against any local opposition, no matter what combination of players they put on the field.
Once more, coach Dale Saunders sent out an unusual back four that featured forward Jem Gordon at left back, regular left back Kevon Villaroel in central defence and rookie Keston George at right back.
Yet, it was not until midway through the second half that Connection managed to beat opposing goalkeeper Jan-Michael Williams. And, even then, it took a fine improvised volley from substitute Shackiel Henry to do the trick.
All 10 Connection outfield players and their two substitutes used have extensive international experiences—including current Soca Warriors defender Daneil Cyrus, former National Under-23 Team captain Alvin Jones and current National Under-20 Team skipper Jabari Mitchell, who came off the bench.
But coach Stuart Charles-Fevrier’s men never seemed fully at ease with the hounding by the Sharks and, in particular, the opposing central midfield duo of Leston Paul and Nathaniel Garcia.
Paul seemed to take it as a personal affront to see a Connection player in possession and there seemed to be no lengths he would not go to set that right. And the mobile Garcia was a worthy sidekick.
Connection’s crafty but ageing creative axis of captain Hughtun Hector—who started the game as a false nine—and Andre Toussaint did not enjoy it one bit.
Former National Under-20 Team flanker Aikim Andrews had the first notable attempt at goal, in the fifth minute, as he forced Central FC goalkeeper Jan-Michael Williams into a low, flying save.
It was Williams’ first outing since being knocked unconscious in World Cup qualifying action away to Honduras on 15 November and he certainly looked confident at the back.
Bit by bit, Connection conceded real estate to Central and, by the 20th minute, Central attackers Darren Mitchell and Jason Marcano looked to be taking target practice from the edge of the opposing penalty box.
The opening game came from an unlikely source, though, as defender Keion Goodridge responded quickly to fire home from eight yards, after Gordon flicked a Sean De Silva corner kick into his path in the 21st minute.
The Sharks had to wait until the 56th minute for their second and it came from giant forward Kenwyne Jones following an exchange of passes between Marcano and Mitchell.
The Soca Warriors captain finished with a deft lofted effort from inside the box that ought not to have escaped the attentions of the new Trinidad and Tobago international coach Tom Saintfiet, who was watching from the stands.
Connection had rejigged their formation to try to set things right as they went from a 3-3-4-0 system—although Hector started as a pseudo-forward, he operated generally as an attacking midfielder—to a more conventional 4-3-3 at the interval.
Fevrier even sent on a traditional centre forward, Henry, and he nearly dragged them back into the game single-handedly.
First, Henry responded to an ineffective punched clearance from Williams in the 70th minute by lashing home on the volley, despite the awkward height of the bouncing ball.
Then, just minutes later, he almost mustered an improbable equaliser as he slammed a left side cross by the lively Dimitrie Apai towards goal, only to see his effort rebound off the bar.
Central held on for the three points. But then, with nine wins from 10 outings so far this season, they are used to that.
Pro League results
(Friday 9 December)
Morvant Caledonia Utd 2 (Sheldon Holder 43, Kareem Joseph 60), Point Fortin Civic 2 (Jamille Boatswain 34, 46) at Hasely Crawford Stadium;
San Juan Jabloteh 2 (Brent Sam 50, Tyrone Charles 71), Club Sando 0 at Hasely Crawford Stadium;
(Monday 12 December)
W Connection 1 (Shackiel Henry 70), Central FC 2 (Keion Goodridge 21, Kenwyne Jones 56) at Ato Boldon Stadium;
(Tuesday 13 December)
St Ann’s Rangers 0, Defence Force 2 (Devorn Jorsling 23, Hashim Arcia 51) at Hasely Crawford Stadium;
Police FC 4 (Kaaron Foster 6, Elijah Belgrave 34, Christon Thomas 73, 78), Ma Pau 4 (Jerrel Britto 5, Kerry Baptiste 22 pen, Elton John 76, Jason Scotland 79) at Hasely Crawford Stadium.
(Friday 16 December)
Club Sando vs Central FC, 6pm, Ato Boldon Stadium;
Police vs W Connection, 8pm, Ato Boldon Stadium;
(Sunday 18 December)
Morvant Caledonia vs St Ann’s Rangers, 3.30pm, Morvant Recreation Ground;
Ma Pau Stars vs Point Fortin, 4pm, Ato Boldon Stadium;
Defence Force vs San Juan Jabloteh, 6pm, Ato Boldon Stadium;