Carapichaima East Secondary claimed a sixth straight Coca-Cola Intercol Central Zone title, as they beat a determined Chaguanas North Secondary 2-1 at the Ato Boldon Stadium in Couva.
‘Caps’ head coach Nicholas Gopaul and his assistant, Jason Bourne, have enjoyed success in their first year in the Secondary School’s Football League (SSFL), and the feeling, Bourne said, will never get old.
“It’s always very gratifying as a new coach coming into a new system, a new environment, new administration, with a new team—Caps lost a lot of players last season—it was a bit of a challenge.”
According to Bourne, coaching focused on more than football.
“We spent a lot of time on the social part of things, learning the players, getting accustomed to [each other] … We just started to get into the team, where we could settle down and play the football. And they did well, and we were very happy to see that we got the result we were looking for today.”
True to form, ‘Caps’—the Central Zone’s lone Premier Division representative and defending Central Intercol champs—scored first. In the second minute, Dexter Neils prodded in the opener, delighting the fans, who had barely settled into their seats.
And Carapichaima did not come off the front foot until the 24th minute when Chaguanas forward Tristan Lewis drilled his shot harmlessly wide of the upright. From there on, the match was much more balanced.
In the 26th minute, Terell Leacock misjudged a corner and was left stranded off his line, but Chaguanas striker Anthony Mohammed could not get enough purchase on the loose ball to even up the scores with the goal gaping.
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In the 33rd minute, in another Chaguanas attempt, Anderson Gilbert had his shot blocked after Mohammed burst into the area down the right wing.
Caps attempted to reassert their influence on the game in the 40th minute. Caps firebrand, winger Malik Robinson, cut inside two defenders and banged his shot off the right upright from a tight angle. A fracas followed and from the subsequent freekick, Caps winger Dexter Neils headed wide at the far post after Chaguanas keeper and captain, Jon-Pierre David, flapped helplessly behind the looping cross.
In first-half stoppage, Lewis had the best chance of the half. Lee-Van David delivered an inviting cross between two defenders, but Leacock’s position on the Caps goal line was enough to deny him the equaliser. The teams went into the half with Caps on top 1-0.
Chaguanas North coach Jaeem Jeffrey said things went to plan in all but one area: “Chances were created, we just didn’t capitalise, and obviously Caps did the opposite.
“We tried to play as compact as possible because we know their strong point is their midfield,” Jeffrey revealed, “but it just didn’t swing in our direction today.”
Caps pushed further up the pitch in the second half, but there was no backing down from the underdogs, who continued to create a slew of half chances. But the champions scored next, as Robinson finally got the goal his efforts deserved.
Full of running even after an hour, he weaved through two defenders in the centre of the Chaguanas area, faked a shot, lost the last man, before skimming in the second off the turf from a tough angle—2-0 after 67 minutes.
Bourne said: “There was a level of dominance in possession that we wanted to show in the game, but sometimes the game is played on the day.
“We made a few wayward passes and allowed the other team to get comfortable; we allowed them to press us, but we maintained our composure.”
The game was still destined to have a frenetic end as Chaguanas refused to call it quits.
“It was getting a little rough in the end,” Bourne said. “We have to give Chaguanas North their credit. They are a good team, a good quick team, but our plan was simply to keep possession of the ball, wear the team down and take our chances when we got them”
In the 75th minute, Caps sub Resean Britton almost put it beyond reach for the Chaguanas boys when his speculative lobbed effort beat the keeper but came back out off the crossbar to a chorus of ‘oooo goooddd’ from the Caps support.
Close to the end, Chaguanas was still pressing for something positive from their afternoon, but the keeper was alive to the danger posed by a Gilbert corner bending into his last post.
Three minutes from full-time, Mohammed hit the crossbar from about 25 yards out, then Lewis found the net, latching on to Albert’s drilled centre to make it 2-1.
The four minutes of stoppage time brought loud cheers from both sets of fans, but only one continued in good voice after the final blast of referee Nicolai Nyron’s whistle.
Caps now await the winner of the East Zone Intercol in the national semi-final. The Central giants drew with both St Augustine Secondary (2-2) and San Juan North Secondary (0-0).
“Truth be told, we played both teams in the league and we know the quality they have,” Jeffrey said. “We actually do have some work to do to prepare for whichever team is coming through. We know we have to do a bit more if we need to come out with the win. We are looking forward, and we think we know what we need to do to fix it.”
Chaguanas North also has an important mission; they lost 2-1 to Arima North on Saturday and have destiny in their hands on the final day of the Big 5.
“We just need to be a bit more composed in front of goal. Simple turnovers could be avoided and communication can improve,” Jeffrey said.
Still, he is backing his boys to secure their legacy. “I have a strong feeling we can get over the line,” he forecasted. “We have been trying for some years, so I really believe this is the year to put Chaguanas north back on the map.”
To do this, he planned on repeating what got them unbeaten to the top of the Central Zone Championship division (6W, 2D).
“We only dropped four points,” he said. “We don’t have much depth, but the key to the season is the right frame of mind from the guys. We tend to work together, work with what we have and just push forward from there.”
Chaguanas North meet a Fatima College team that has already sealed its promotion at 3.40pm on Saturday in Edinburgh 500.
Chaguanas North Secondary (4-4-2): 1.John-Pierre David (GK/Captain); 6.Erin Steeple, 13.Anacletus Raphael, 2.Syreon De La Rosa, 4.Lee-Vann David; 12.Drei Guisseppi, 9.Haseem Taylor (3.Jeremiah Isaac 71), 19.Isaiah Albert, 10.Anderson Gilbert (5.Amos Sookhan 85); 7.Anthony Mohammed, 8.Tristan Lewis.
Unused Subs: 24.Aaron Huggins (GK), 14.Mekhi Bain, 16.Chike Cuffie, 29.Isaac Salandy.
Coach: Jaeem Jeffrey
Carapichaima East Secondary (4-3-3): 22.Terell Leacock; 12.Emmanuel Corriea, 4.Brandon St Clair (Captain), 3.Jaron Pascal, 20.Daniel King; 10.Josiah King, 8.Keilon Burnett, 7.Malik Robinson (21.Elijah Payne 78); 19.Dexter Neils (9.Resean Britto 68), 11.Isiah Samuel 17.Ivan Dos Santos.
Unused subs: 1.Aaron Best (GK), 5.Curtis Brisbane, 13.Jadeon Miller, 18.Josiah Henry, 23.Isack Lynch.
Coach: Nicholas Gopaul
Man of the Match: Malik Robinson (Carapichaima East Secondary)
Central Intercol final
(20 November 2019)
Chaguanas North Secondary 1 (Tristan Lewis 87), Carapichaima East Secondary 2 (Dexter Neils 2, Malik Robinson 67) at Ato Boldon Stadium.