For the second successive season, a Trinidad and Tobago club will not be crowned Caribbean champions, Pro League outfit Central FC having been downed 2-0 by Jamaica’s Arnett Gardens in the regional semifinals in Jamaica last night.
The result condemned the “Couva Sharks” to Sunday’s third place play-off against a second Jamaican club, Portmore United. The third-placed team qualifies automatically for CONCACAF’s second-tier league competition while the loser faces a play-off against a Central American club.
Meanwhile, Arnett Gardens will challenge the Dominican Republic’s Atletico Pantoja for the Caribbean Club Championship title and the sole available berth to the CONCACAF Champions League on Sunday night. Pantoja edged Portmore 4-3 in a goal-feast yesterday evening.
Central FC were the last Pro League team to hoist the regional crown, claiming back-to-back titles in 2015 and 2016 under coaches Terry Fenwick and Dale Saunders respectively.
Rookie coach Stern John had talented players at his disposal but precious little time to mould them into a team. Central did well to get to the final four but, despite dominating possession, they were outplayed where it counted last night.
The Sharks lacked the ingenuity to get around the Arnett defence while sloppy individual errors often sabotaged their attempt at a patient passing game. Former Trinidad and Tobago National Under-20 Team defender Taryk Sampson, who is a current fringe member for the Senior Team, was particularly culpable in the first half while midfielder Jared London also struggled to distinguish himself.
Diminutive Jamaican attacker Fabian Reid, a former San Juan Jabloteh playmaker, pounced on almost every mistake and it was a surprise that he did not find the back of the net.
Arnett midfielder Tamar Edwards put the hosts ahead in the 27th minute with a low, 25-yard rocket, which flew past the otherwise outstanding Central custodian, Marvin Phillip. And, after a smooth passing exchange that predictably included Reid, winger Marvin Morgan doubled his side’s lead in the 54th minute.
Central midfielder and captain Densill Theobald was the best outfield player for the Pro League team while substitutes Duane Muckette and Jason Marcano both came off the bench to add some verve.
But, by the final whistle, the Arnett Gardens custodian had not been stretched once as Central—who started with converted midfielder Akim Armstrong upfront while orthodox strikers Johan Peltier, Jamal Creighton and Marcano sat on the bench—meekly settled for a spot in the third place play-off.
Central FC (4-2-3-1): 1.Marvin Phillip (GK); 17.Anthony Wolfe (7.Johan Peltier 69), 5.Daneil Cyrus, 12.Taryk Sampson, 22.Jameel Neptune; 26.Jared London, 18.Densill Theobald (captain) (27.Duane Muckette 69); 9.Tyrone Charles, 11.Darren Mitchell, 10.Keron Cummings (19.Jason Marcano 60); 8.Akim Armstrong.
Unused substitutes: 30.Keino Paul (GK), 13.Rhondel Gibson, 15.Kaydion Gabriel, 24.Jamal Creighton.
Coach: Stern John