And they’re off!
After consecutive defeats to Guaya United and San Juan Jabloteh, Police FC finally opened their account in the Ascension Invitational Tournament, thumping Matura ReUnited by a 6-nil margin at the Police Academy in St James Saturday evening.
Both teams entered yesterday’s encounter winless. And it did not take long to decipher which team was hungrier for the three points. The Lawmen were at it from the onset, with the attacking trio of Kareem Freitas, Micah Lewis and Jameel Perry, as well as veteran utility player Elijah Belgrave, full of running in the early going.
With bleak skies overhead due to a powerful shower just before the start of play, it appeared as though the only thing that could halt the Police in their tracks was lightning and thunderstorm. Not even an inspired performance from Matura goalkeeper Erskine Johnson could stave off the Police raid, as the hosts were relentless in pursuit of their first Ascension triumph.
It is quite peculiar to hail the performance of a goalkeeper in a 6-0 trashing; however, Johnson’s efforts between the sticks—particularly in the first half—stopped the Police tally from reading double digits.
Police led 1-nil at the break, thanks to a fortuitous 40th-minute item by Perry, who was twice denied from point-blank range in the first half by the nimble feet of Johnson. Perry sealed his double with a powerful close-range header from a precise Kaydion Gabriel cross in the 52nd minute. On any another day, the striker would have had a beaver trick if not for the agile Johnson.
Johnson’s first-half display, coupled with some shabby finishing from the Police players, certainly conspired to raise the frustration level of Police coach Richard Hood.
“That’s the first piece of luck we get for the [obscenity] year!” Hood exclaimed on the sideline, when Perry’s left-footed shot from the edge of the area took a wicked ricochet off Matura defender Cleveland Cambridge to give Police the lead.
“We just felt as though we had some kind of blight going with us,” Hood told Wired868 in a post-match chat. “That’s the first lucky thing that has happened to us for the year. I don’t know if you saw the goals against Jabloteh but a ball hit a man foot and looped over Adrian [Foncette’s] head and went into the goal.
“It’s not that teams have opened us up and scored goals. It just happened to fall in the opposition’s favour.”
Even as the final seconds of stoppage time at the end of the 90 minutes ebbed away, and with his team holding an unassailable 6-nil lead, Hood was still barking instructions from his technical area.
“Yes, the goalkeeper made some good saves, but I felt as though the finishing could have been better as well,” Hood said. “It was a combination of good saves and not so great finishing. From that regard, we could have and should have scored more goals.”
Hood continued: “I was pleased with some aspects of the performance. I wasn’t pleased with the first half because I felt we looked a little nervous. Having lost the first two games, I felt as though the confidence wasn’t quite there.”
But the second half was a different story. Police absolutely shot out of the blocks and approached the second period with the kind of intensity Police Commissioner Gary Griffith’s ‘One shot, one kill’ mantra requires.
“I thought after I spoke to them at halftime they settled down much better and started to move the ball the way we want to, with confidence and positivity. Therefore, we opened them up much easier in the second half.”
It was some start to the second half too. There were two goals, a saved penalty and a red card—all in a wild seven-minute span.
Less than a minute after the resumption, Police made it 2-nil as Freitas tapped home from close range, following a smooth left-side attack that featured left back Brendon Creed, midfielder Marcus Chandool and wide man Lewis.
And after Matura midfielder Russel Alfred woefully dragged a close-range effort wide in the 47th minute, Chandool tricked his way into receiving a penalty.
However, not for the first time, Johnson came up trumps, sprawling to his left to stop a low drive by the casual Freitas. The Matura goalie must have felt as though he was out on an island as his defenders offered little to no resistance.
In the 50th minute, Matura right back Andron Cassanova, presumably deciding that he had had enough of the day’s proceedings, received a second booking for a clumsy challenge on Lewis down the left flank.
“Referee, them men only diving,” Cassanova pleaded with an unimpressed Nicholas Murray.
Matura coach Roland Clarke would hope that Cassanova got a decent view of the performance of the opposing right back Gabriel. Barring a couple of misplaced passes in the first half, the former Central FC man was in full flow. His crossing from the right flank was accurate and his off the ball running drained the life out of a Matura backline that often looked as though they were playing on a field made of molasses.
In the 52nd minute, Gabriel served up an inch-perfect cross, which Perry gobbled up with an emphatic header past Johnson; 3-0 to the Lawmen.
Hood was not pleased with the overall finishing display from his Police outfit, and despite the clean sheet, the defensive showing did not impress him either.
“Defensively, we weren’t too bad, but we can improve in certain aspects of it. I would like to see an improvement in our transition game as well,” Hood said.
Foncette, currently the back-up custodian to Marvin Phillip on the Senior Men’s National Team, was largely a bystander for much of the encounter. But he was called upon to make a point-blank save to deny midfielder Irvin Reyes in the 53rd minute after the Police defence was breached far too easily by a Kendes Garcia through pass.
At the other end, though, Johnson remained the busiest man in the city that never sleeps.
In the 68th minute, the Matura goalie made a terrific double save to deny substitute Keion Wilson. But, still left on the proverbial island by his teammates, Johnson was made to face up to another Police penalty in the 72nd minute, following a clumsy tackle by midfielder Kareem Lewis.
This time there were to be no heroics from Johnson as Police substitute Keion Wilson drilled his penalty low and hard; 4-0 to the Lawmen.
Seconds after Wilson’s penalty conversion, Johnson was made to retrieve the ball from the net again as substitute Adriel Kerr banged in an unselfish feed from Freitas from close range; 5-0 to the Lawmen.
By this time, the Police operation could be described as flowing and clinical. Hood knows that his team will have to put together similar performances if they are to be among the frontrunners in the top flight of the Ascension tournament, which sees prizes ranging between TT$300,000 and TT$75,000.
“The overall aim is to win the Ascension Invitational Tournament because we want the money as it would be a tremendous boost for our program,” Hood said. “We don’t have a sponsor and we have to depend on our sports club, which has to finance all the sports in the police service, so we get very little from them.”
Hood continued: “It’s not what you’d expect from a professional team. So hopefully if we get the funds, we can outfit ourselves a little better and give ourselves some of the things we need to perform better on the professional circuit.”
Finances may be lacking, according to Hood, but Police were not lacking professionalism and cutting edge in this match. In the 87th minute, Joshua Leach, another substitute, put the icing on the cake as Johnson failed to hold on to a low, right-footed effort by Kerr; 6-0 to the Lawmen and it was game, set and match.
It has not been the most auspicious of starts for Police in the Ascension Tournament. But after hitting Matura for six, opposing teams better be on the lookout.
Police FC (4-3-3): 18.Adrian Foncette (GK) (captain); 27.Kaydion Gabriel, 8.Kurdell Brathwaite, 33.Kemron Purcell, 16.Brendon Creed; 4.Kadeem Boyce (13.Dillon Kirton 81), 26.Marcus Chandool (5.Kenaz Williams 65), 11.Micah Lewis; 10.Kareem Freitas (30.Joshua Leach 74), 9.Jameel Perry (28.Adriel Kerr 63), 20.Elijah Belgrave (32.Keion Wilson 56).
Unused Substitutes: 22.Theon Browne (GK), 15.Christian Thomas, 24.Xavier Wheeler.
Coach: Richard Hood
Matura ReUnited (4-1-4-1): 16.Erskine Johnson (GK); 23.Andron Cassanova (red card 50) 20.Cleveland Cambridge, 18.Timothy John, 6.Joel Hoyte; 21.Russel Alfred (15.Kareem Lewis 56); 9.Shervin Charles (25.Ricardo Zacarias 74), 8.Christopher Durity (captain), 28.Irvin Reyes (14.Kenwin Matthew 80), 12.Kitwana Abosi (2.Kern Diaz 74); 11.Kendes Garcia.
Unused Substitutes: 1.Kyle Ferreira (GK), 31.Akil Timothy (GK), 3.Aeion Charles, 34.Akeel Alvarez.
Coach: Roland Clarke
Referee: Nicholas Murray
Wired868 Man of the Match: Kareem Freitas (Police FC)
Ascension Invitational Tournament
(Saturday 3 August)
Police FC 6 (Jameel Perry 40, 52, Kareem Freitas 46, Keion Wilson pen 72, Adriel Kerr 73, Joshua Leach 87), Matura ReUnited 0 at Police Academy, St James.
(Saturday 3 August)
Moruga FC 1 (Nigel John 45), RSSR FC 0 at Grand Chemin Recreation Ground;
Police FC 0, UTT FC 3 (Kishun Seecharan 15, Cyrano Glen 51, Stevon Stoute 90) at Police Academy, St James;
Club Sando Uprising Yths 0, Deportivo PF 7 (Andrei Pacheco 11 pen, Jeremiah Kesar 50, Judah Garcia 56, Adan Noel 71, 88, Nathaniel Garcia 73, Ezekiel Kesar 90) at Guapo Recreation Ground.