W CONNECTION did not quite match the quality of their historic 2007 victory, but at least put up a fight as they exited the 2012-2013 CONCACAF Champions League football competition with a respectable 1-1 draw against 11-time Mexican champions, Chivas of Guadalajara, on Wednesday night at the Ato Boldon Stadium in Couva.
In doing so, W Connection dented the Mexican team's qualification hopes. Chivas (four points) now have to beat Guatemala group leaders, Xelajú (seven points) to advance to the quarterfinal round. W Connection (two points) ended bottom of Group 8 with two draws. The T&T team held Xelajú to a 2-all draw at home, but suffered away defeats to Chivas (4-0) and Xelajú (3-2).
The Connection/Chivas clash, five years ago, was a genuine classic, and saw a 10-man W Connection come from behind to win 2-1 over a Chivas team with four Mexican internationals, including goalscorer Omar Bravo. With the Brazilian trio of Jose Luis Seabra, Ronaldo Viana and playmaker Gefferson Goulart in their squad, W Connection became one of the very few local clubs to beat a Mexican club. Defence Force defeated Pachuca in 2002, while Joe Public edged Atlante 1-0 in 2008. In 2007, current Connection assistant coach, St Lucian Earl Jean cancelled out Bravo's goal, and then Seabra won the match late when his left-footer sailed past goalkeeper Luis Ernesto Michel. W Connection had looked in trouble when T&T keeper Jan Michael Williams handled the ball outside his penalty area and was red-carded 20 minutes into the match.
There was no such drama on Wednesday night. The 1-1 result was born out of Connection's determination not to be savaged by their opponents. Goalkeeper Williams, the lone survivor from 2007, kept his team in the match with two above average saves in either half.
W Connection coach, Stuart Charles-Fevrier rested several regulars, including Joevin Jones and Shahdon Winchester, and gave starts to St Lucian Kurt Fredericks at left back, former Jabloteh right back Leslie Russell, and a couple other reserves.
Chivas dominated for the most part, but could not pass keeper Williams early on. The first half hour saw W Connection restrict Chivas to long range shots from Jesus Padillia, which whizzed past either post. Goalie Williams was called into action in the 15th minute when brilliantly touching away a well-placed shot from Jesus Sanchez, who was on the end of a cross to the back post. Williams made a second big save in the 36th minute when fending off a powerful free-kick that whizzed at him down the centre of goal, off Padilla's boot.
Chivas finally broke W Connection through Erik Torres in the 39th. Finding himself unmarked in the penalty area, overlapping right back Antonio Gallardo picked out Torres, who, with his second touch, put his shot over goalkeeper Williams to give Chivas a 1-0 lead.
Chivas were also dominating the second half when Clyde Leon probably brought back bad memories for Mexican goalkeeper Luis Ernesto Michel. Beaten when Seabra's left-footer sailed past him five years ago, Michel was again undone by a bullet. This time, Leon left the Chivas goalkeeper clutching at air, the defensive midfielder bringing W Connection level at 1-1 in the 66th minute with a powerful free-kick, which flew off the outside of his right foot and nestled inside the far post.
Fighting for their football lives, Chivas went in search of a winner. Xavier Baez drilled a powerful free-kick, which a diving Williams turned away in the 72nd minute. And substitute Luis Morales had an unchallenged run at goal in the 84th, but Williams dropped low, blocking the shot with his legs.