A great atmosphere, and a match that had many ingredients – exciting moments, goals, a huge upset and a contentious sending off as well.
It was not a full house, but there was a loud rhythm section, as second-placed Central FC beat Pro League football leaders W Connection 3-0, all the goals coming within the first half hour of the top-of-the-table clash on Friday night at Ato Boldon Stadium, Couva.
It was just the second loss this season for W Connection, and their biggest defeat since Defence Force beat them 5-1 in 2012 and Jabloteh won 6-2 in 1999. W Connection’s lead is now down to five points over Central and North East Stars, who both have 32 points after Stars earlier edged Play Whe San Juan Jabloteh 1-0, via an 18th minute Trevin Caesar header. However, W Connection have still played a match less than their rivals.
Central exploited a slow W Connection in the first half, and defended for dear life in the second session.
Among those turning out for the match were national coach Stephen Hart and assistants Hutson Charles and Derek King; Point Fortin Civic coach Reynold Carrington and sons; along with former nationals Brent Sancho, Wesley Webb, Michael Maurice and Anthony Rougier. What they saw was both contenders bringing out their A-teams for a game that could greatly influence the outcome of the 2013-2014 season. And there was almost the perfect W Connection start in the opening seconds when Shahdon Winchester’s low shot slipped under goalkeeper Jan Michael Williams’ dive and had to be hurriedly cleared away by defenders.
But it was the Central’s “big dread” Marvin Oliver who scored the opening goal when he drilled a free-kick from atop the penalty area. Capable St Kitts-Nevis goalie Julani Archibald never saw the ball until it shook his net in the 18th minute. Suddenly, a minute later, the score was 2-0 to Central, when Atuallah Guerra also beat Archibald from distance with a powerful shot.
What could W Connection do? They had rallied from a similar two-goal deficit when the teams drew 2-2 earlier this year. Well, not this time. The hungry Terry Fenwick-trained “Sharks”, were doing everything first-time, while Connection looked sluggish.
Soon, it was 3-0 in the 28th minute, when February’s Player of the Month Willis Plaza caught W Connection on the counter-attack and scored from inside the penalty area.
Then came a contentious moment just before the half ended, when referee Rodfin Harris sent off Guerra and gave Oliver a yellow card as well. Fenwick was on the referee’s case after that. Everyone was talking about the sending-off, even national coach Hart. One team had a three-goal lead, but W Connection had a man advantage.
Their head-coach Stuart Charles Fevrier made a double change as the second half began, replacing Jerrel Britto and Hasim Arcia with the Surinamese attacking pair of Steffano Risjell and Demetrie Apai. But Central bunkered down and defended for the entire half. Fenwick left only the speedy Rundell Winchester on top, while leaving the other nine to protect his three-goal investment.
Apai had the ball in the Central net within the first five minutes of the second session, but was called offside. W Connection dictated the second half, but were forced out of their natural passing style. Central protected the wide positions doggedly and it became a game of long passes and second challenges. So apart from forcing a series of corner kicks, W Connection made little impact against Central’s defensive fortress. Season on!
DIGICEL PRO LEAGUE RESULTS
Central FC 3 (Marvin Oliver 18, Ataullah Guerra 19, Willis Plaza 28) W Connection 0
North East Stars 1 (Trevin Caesar 18) San Juan Jabloteh 0
UPCOMING DIGICEL PRO LEAGUE MATCHES:
6 (p.m.)—Point Fortin Civic v Defence Force, Ato Boldon Stadium
6 (p.m.)—Police v San Juan Jabloteh, Larry Gomes Stadium
Teams P W D L GF GA GD Points
Direct TV W Connection 17 11 4 2 32 12 20 37
Central FC 18 8 8 2 34 17 17 32
North East Stars 18 8 5 4 21 12 9 32
Point Fortin Civic FC 16 9 2 5 26 16 10 29
Defence Force 14 7 2 5 28 21 7 23
Caledonia AIA 17 5 6 6 24 21 3 21
Police FC 16 6 3 7 19 26 -7 21
San Juan Jabloteh 17 3 2 12 19 38 -19 11
St. Ann’s Rangers 17 1 0 16 12 52 -40 3