Former Trinidad and Tobago National Under-20 Team midfielder Yohannes Richardson wrote his name into San Fernando Giants folklore yesterday evening as his late penalty ensured a sensational finish to the inaugural Ascension Invitational Tournament Division Two title race.
Richardson’s strike was all that separated the Giants from southern rivals, Deportivo PF, who started the game leading the Division Two standings. And, remarkably, it thwarted a third team from stealing the crown, as a draw between Giants and Deportivo would have seen both sides leapfrogged by UTT FC, who clobbered Marabella Family Crisis Centre 9-0 in their final outing of the season at O’ Meara.
Over in Division One, there was an anticlimactic air at the Diego Martin Sporting Complex as newly crowned champions Defence Force FC were awarded a 3-0 win over Matura ReUnited by default in their final fixture of the season.
Matura officials, according to the Ascension Tournament organisers, claimed that: “the majority of [our] players have just indicated that they are unable to make the game due to work…” It might have created a scandal if the Army/Coast Guard combination were not already assured of the title due to the expulsion of Morvant Caledonia AIA and a late stumble by San Juan Jabloteh, who were whipped 5-0 by Terminix La Horquetta Rangers on Friday night.
Jabloteh still managed to hold on to third place, though, as Police FC edged Cunupia FC 2-1 in Diego Martin.
The final placings meant Defence Force pocketed the TT$250,000 first prize while Rangers and Jabloteh are due TT$125,000 and TT$75,000 respectively.
In Division Two, the top three cash pots were TT$100,000, TT$65,000 and TT$35,000 respectively. And, at kick off, Giants and Deportivo PF each had 25 points with the former leading on goal difference while UTT had 24 points. It turned yesterday’s affair in Marabella into a must-win contest.
And, as UTT stars Kishun Seecharan and Che Benny rained goals on Marabella FCC, Richardson got the one that matter at the Mannie Ramjohn to settle an exciting title chase.
“We know that we had to score to win the Ascension League,” said San Fernando Giants head coach, Brian Williams, after the game. “I think the players have sacrificed a lot and I think a victory like this one, they just only deserve it […] I just want them to enjoy the moment.”
The match itself was a tense, fiery affair that offered up entertainment in the individual battles. Richardson seemed part Rolls Royce, part monster truck in the middle of the park as he continuously bested the Deportivo midfield trio of Hughton Hector, Andrei Pacheco and Justin Sadoo.
Meanwhile, talented youngster Judah Garcia—who played the first half as Deportivo’s lone striker—was often outmuscled and dwarfed by the towering Akido Joseph and robust Kern Edwards. Deportivo head coach, Reynold Carrington, said the tactical shift was an attempt to cope with the loss of Judah’s brother, Nathaniel, who took up a contract in India last week. But, as Carrington admitted after the game, his team didn’t play to its or Judah’s strengths enough.
“Early part of the game we tried to go too direct with the presence they had at the back,” Carrington said. “They had a very tall presence at the back, and I think only in the early part of the second half we tried to put the ball down. They were very solid in the defence and prevented us from a lot of openings.”
Carrington certainly could not say the same for his own defenders in the 22nd minute, as central defender Frae Gervais tried to dribble out of trouble in his box, only to lose possession and gift Giants a clear sight on goal.
Luckily for Gervais, San Fernando’s Tevin DeBoulet found Denzil Smith in top form as the goalkeeper parried his point-blank effort and then clawed the follow-up shot around the post with a brilliant right-handed save.
As the game wore on, clean sights at goal were rare, but with the title on the line, the tension was palpable.
Richardson’s influence grew as the clock ticked over, and he even bellowed a few disgruntled remarks towards his teammates for fluffing their lines after his good work.
“Yohannes is one of the true livewires of his team. I think he should even be knocking on the national team doors,” said coach Williams. “[He] is one of our key players and as you can see here today, he gave an energy to the team so the team then can play. We missed him and Kerville Jeremiah when we lost against UTT.”
There was not an ounce of misinformation in Williams’ evaluation too. Having Richardson and Jeremiah on the field offered a massive boost to Giants’ hopes. However, had Rashby Mc Phie not been in a lenient mood, they could have been down to 10 men with 20 minutes to play.
Deportivo midfielder Akeem Redhead had only been on the field for a few seconds when he was met with a horrendous lunging tackle from Edwards. Luckily for Giants fans, McPhie only flashed a yellow card.
Players were getting antsy now. The experienced Pacheco, under pressure, appeared to swing an elbow at San Fernando flanker Keston Grant. McPhie showed yellow yet again.
Tensions rising. Title and prize money at stake. Then came the big call. Penalty!
McPhie pointed to the spot instantly after he ruled that Gervais pulled Jeremiah down in the box.
Carrington later described it as a ‘soft penalty’ and an incensed Smith kicked the ball away in disgust at the decision. There was nothing ‘soft’ about the power and precision of Richardson’s subsequent penalty kick, though, as he rifled the ball into the corner.
With one kick, Richardson simultaneously slayed two teams as his effort would have provoked groans by not only Deportivo fans but from UTT’s as well.
Deportivo’s attempts to find an equaliser were in tatters when Pacheco received his marching orders for a second yellow. It was a bridge too far after that.
“I think coming at the end, we were definitely up for it. It just didn’t go our way today,” said Carrington. “Tough loss. Again, congratulations to San Fernando Giants.”
Bathed in the glory of victory, Williams was now keen to focus on the upcoming Super League season.
“Thanks to everybody. I think the Ascension League was a competitive one. Thanks to the Almighty and my staff. And we [are] looking forward to the Super League this year. And we try to take it step by step.”
Deportivo Point Fortin (4-2-3-1): 1.Denzil Smith (GK); 3. Steven Joseph, 4.Frae Gervais, 21.Ronell Paul, 5.Isaiah Garcia; 6.Justin Sadoo, 14.Andrei Pacheco; 2.Jeremiah Kesar (10.Akeem Redhead), 7.Hughton Hector (C), 9.Adan Noel (18.Elijah Alleyne); 11.Judah Garcia.
Unused substitutes: 12.Miguel Payne (GK), 16.J’van Smith, 19.Kevin Moodie, 22.Dale Bishop, 23.Jeremy Primus.
Head Coach: Reynold Carrington
San Fernando Giants (4-2-3-1): 35.Stefan Berkeley (GK); 28.Jamal DuBarry, 26.Akido Joseph, 4.Kern Edwards, 9.Keon Figaro; 5.Yohannes Richardson, 27.Odell Fitzallen (C); 21.Rayon Alleyne (2.Akiel Charles), 19.Tevin DeBoulet (11.Ken Bhola), 13.Keston Grant (23.Terrell Williams); 29.Kerville Jeremiah (3.Jezneel Duntin).
Unused substitutes: 7.Arvid Applewhite, 22.Denton Headley.
Head Coach: Brian Williams
Referee: Rashby McPhie
Man of the Match: Yohannes Richardson (San Fernando Giants)
Ascension Invitational Tournament
Division One results
(Friday 27 September)
Terminix La Horquetta Rangers 5 (Jamal Creighton 30, Aikim Andrews 42, Ross Russell Jr 59, 89, Tyrone Charles 90+1), San Juan Jabloteh 0 at Phase Two, La Horquetta;
(Sunday 29 September)
Prison Service FC 2 (Kylon Gay 33 pen, Nathan Julien 86), Guaya United 0 at San Juan North ground;
QPCC 0, Club Sando 2 (Keron Cornwall 51, 90+1) at St Mary’s College ground;
Cunupia FC 1 (Kevon Woodley 21), Police FC 2 (Keion Wilson 45+1, Michael Yaw Darko OG 71) at Diego Martin Sporting Complex;
Defence Force 3, Matura ReUnited 0 at Diego Martin Sporting Complex;
*—D/Force awarded result by default
Division Two results
(Saturday 28 September)
Bethel United 3 (Makan Hislop 72, Tee Jay Cadiz 80, Azimodeen Leith 84), Harlem Strikers 1 (Matthew Lester 38) at Mt Gomery Recreation Ground;
(Sunday 29 September)
UTT FC 9 (Dillon Bartholomew 6, Keshon Carter 34, Stevon Stoute 50, Kishun Seecharan 65, 70, 81, Che Benny 67, 79, Stephen Richardson OG 90), Marabella Family CC 0 at UTT, O’ Meara;
Police FC 2 (Colin Williams 50, Keron Clarke 89), Club Sando Uprising Y’ths 0 at Teacher’s Training College, Valsayn;
Petit Valley/D’go Martin Utd 3 (Kazim Donald 22, Calvi Grazette 74, 80), Moruga FC 2 (Keion La Rode 53, Kervelle Turner 56) at St Anthony’s College Ground;
Erin FC 3 (Shakquile Williams 49, Jalen Bristol 75, 85), RSSR FC 2 (Micah Lansiquot 36, Hakim Gulston 55) at Erin Recreation Ground;
San Fernando Giants 1 (Yohannes Richardson 90 pen), Deportivo PF 0 at Mannie Ramjohn Stadium Training Field.