Morvant Caledonia AIA extended their winning streak in the Ascension Invitational Tournament to eight games last night when they defeated the much-fancied Terminix La Horquetta Rangers (LHR) by a 2-nil margin at the Phase Two La Horquetta Recreation Ground.
Jerry Moe’s Caledonia outfit (24 points), who hold a slender two-point lead over Defence Force atop the Ascension Division One table, are a mixture of disciplined defending, grit and relentless running. That disciplined, defensive approach stems from the experience and leadership at the back from central defender Radanfah Abu Bakr. The grit and relentless running is exemplified by players such as Renaldo Francois, Ray Jordan and Venezuelan import Johnny Noreiga-Brito.
Last night, these traits from the ‘Cale’ team seemed too much for LHR to handle. The visitors profited from two defensive errors in the second half to punish the hosts and put an end to their unbeaten run. The defeat leaves LHR in fourth place on 14 points and has surely put an end to their hopes of winning the inaugural Ascension tournament.
It is also worth pointing out that LHR’s four victories have all come against Trinidad and Tobago Super League (TTSL) opposition, while they have come away goalless and winless after their three battles with Pro League outfits.
Maybe that flat-track bully theory is holding to form after all.
Against Cale last night, LHR coach Dave Quamina pondered his team’s two costly defensive errors and their inability to sustain their intensity for full 90 minutes.
“I think we had a good game in the first half, and we stuck to the game plan,” Quamina told Wired868. “We played a high pressing game in the first half and it worked. In the second half, it didn’t go to plan. The two goals were down to individual errors; one by the defender and the other by the goalkeeper. I think we were all over them in the first 15 minutes, but football is two halves at the end of the day.”
The moment of truth for the visitors—and the moment of madness for the hosts—came in the 57th minute when Caledonia right back Joshua Alexander sent an absolute thunderbolt past goalkeeper Jabari St Hillaire from just outside the area. But as Quamina alluded to, LHR were guilty of shooting themselves in the foot.
After receiving a throw out from St Hillaire, LHR’s lanky skipper, Jamal Creighton, passed the ball back to central defender Samuel Delice. And that’s where things went downhill. Delice approached the scenario as though he were in a roadside sweat with the boys. The leggy Delice tried to be cute in possession and ultimately played an undercooked pass towards teammate Kevon Goddard.
Alexander, who had a decent showing against LHR’s most enterprising player, Kadeem Corbin, needed no second invitation, and his left-footed scorcher gave St Hillaire absolutely no chance.
Corbin had a right go at Delice after the mishap, and the youngster could be heard voicing his frustrations in the dressing room during Quamina’s post-game chat with Wired868.
The second moment of madness for LHR came in the 78th minute when, after a St Hillaire gaffe, the industrious Jordan tapped into an empty net. A regulation long punt was headed towards the LHR penalty area and St Hillaire’s shout of “keeper!” echoed throughout the Phase Two ground. However, St Hillaire, who stands at well over six feet, badly misjudged the bounce and he was left with egg on his face as Jordan wheeled away in celebration after applying a simple finish.
Up to that point, Jordan was having a rough encounter, as he often tried in vain to get around LHR’s giant of a right back, Jevon Morris. But Jordan’s persistence paid off, though, and Moe’s charges were able to have the last laugh.
“In this Ascension [Invitational Tournament] I think the effort and commitment of the players has been excellent and we’re reaping the rewards,” Moe said.
Moe is often cool, calm and collected and his team has reflected those same attributes wonderfully in the Ascension Invitational thus far.
And despite the fanfare now surrounding the LHR outfit, Moe said the match was just another day at the office.
“Rangers have a bunch of good individuals, but they are not playing as a team, so we weren’t really worried about that,” Moe said. “I think you have to watch the individual threat of the players and once you match that it will give you a chance at victory.”
Creighton, a converted midfielder, currently leads his team with six goals. Surely, he would have been one to watch in Moe’s scout report. After Cale midfielder Sedale McLean struck the post at the end of a slick move in the second minute, Creighton tried to stamp his authority on the contest.
In the third minute, the LHR skipper spanked a long-range effort off the base of goalkeeper Terrence Lewis’ post. Later, he blazed a right-footed shot just wide of the mark in the 24th minute, and he also tried an audacious lobbed effort from inside his own half on the stroke of halftime.
“We didn’t really have a specific plan for them. We saw a couple clippings from them, and we read a couple of articles on them on Wired868,” Moe said. “Personally, I never saw them play, but people who have seen them gave me little bits of information and the game plan was based on that.”
By the second half, LHR’s play got predictable and Moe’s charges were able to clamp down on the wing threat posed by the hosts. LHR often opted for long diagonals out to the flanks to create one-on-one situations for Corbin and fellow flankers Aikim Andrews and Kishon Hackshaw. And although Corbin’s trickery led to a few openings in the first period, he got little change out of his duel with Alexander in the second.
After Alexander took a break from his defensive duties to blast Caledonia into the lead in the 57th minute, Quamina sacrificed first-half sub Caleb Sturge and turned to playmaker Keron ‘Ballpest’ Cummings for inspiration. Quamina said Cummings is still working his way to full fitness. Meanwhile, the LHR faithful are waiting to see some of the magic that rightfully earned Cummings a place in Stephen Hart’s 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup squad.
But after Jordan profited from St Hillaire’s error in the 78th minute, the task for Cummings and his teammates was almost insurmountable.
In the 80th minute, Delice almost atoned for his earlier mishap after Corbin and Cummings worked a short corner, but Lewis was equal to his effort at the back post. The Caledonia goalie ensured that he left La Horquetta with his clean sheet intact in the dying stages. He saved a meaty long-range blast by Hackshaw and a cheeky near-post flick by the wily Corbin.
It was the end of a frustrating for Corbin and LHR, and now Quamina will go back to his drawing board to try and rectify things.
On the other hand, with his team holding a two-point lead atop the Ascension table with three rounds left, Moe can look forward to much brighter prospects. In typical Moe manner, the coach downplayed his team’s chances of winning the tournament.
“I’m not thinking about [us winning the tournament] right now. I’m just taking it one game at a time and that’s the most important game for us,” Moe said. “I think we have Cunupia FC next in the fixtures so that will be the most important game right now.”
Moe can be as he coy as he likes, but at the moment Caledonia are in pole position to cop the TT$300,000 first-place prize. And best believe that the Morvant/Laventille outfit will do all in their power to remain there.
Terminix La Horquetta Rangers (4- 4-2): 20.Jabari St Hillaire (GK); 18.Jevon Morris, 5.Leslie Joel Russell, 33.Keion Goodridge (12.Caleb Sturge 38 [15.Keron Cummings 65]), 77.Samuel Delice; 7.Aikim Andrews, 6.Kevon Goddard, 8.Jamal Creighton (captain), 45.Kadeem Corbin; 24.Kishon Hackshaw, 10.Tyrone Charles.
Unused Substitutes: 13.Jameel Antoine, 16.Hayden Tinto, 21.Keyon Edwards.
Coach: Dave Quamina
Morvant Caledonia AIA (4-1-4 1): 1.Terrence Lewis (GK) (captain); 22.Joshua Alexander (26.Vernell Ramirez), 6.Radanfah Abu Bakr, 2.Malik Mieres, 3.Richard Williams; Sedale McLean (14.Erickson Magloire 78), 29.Adrian Noel, 17.Kerry Daniel, 16.Ryan Jordan (25.Joshua Martin 85); 15.Johnny Noreiga-Brito (18.Jean-Luc Rochford 85); 19.Renaldo Francois (8.Joshua Sylvester 66).
Unused Substitutes: 4.Osei Charles, 20.Lukas Risto, 21.Shem Clauzel, 24.Ibn-Al-Hakim Skinner.
Coach: Jerry Moe
Referee: Joel Cox
Wired868 Man of the Match: Joshua Alexander (Morvant Caledonia AIA)
Ascension Invitational Tournament
(Saturday 7 September)
Terminix La Horquetta Rangers 0, Moravant Caledonia AIA 2 (Joshua Alexander 57, Ryan Jordan 78) at Phase 2 La Horquetta;
Guaya United 0, Queen’s Park Cricket Club 3 (Devon Modeste 26, 30, 60) at Guayaguayare.