‘Couva Sharks’ to meet Haiti’s Don Bosco in a repeat of last season’s Caribbean Club Championship semis
Darren Mitchell scored with four minutes left to give defending champions Central FC a hard-fought 1-0 win over Jamaica League leaders Montego Bay United on Sunday to secure a place in the semi-final round of the 2016 Caribbean Football Union (CFU) Club Championship where the “Couva Sharks” will meet Haiti’s Don Bosco in a repeat of last season’s semis.
A draw at the Montego Bay Sporting Complex in Jamaica would have also suffice with Central FC leading the three-team Group 3 on goal difference ahead of kick off, after Friday’s 6-0 hammering of Cayman Islands team Scholars International, who were defeated 4-0 by Montego Bay United on Wednesday.
But Mitchell scored his second Caribbean Club Championship goal of the current campaign in the 86th minute, hitting past former Joe Public and Jamaica international goalkeeper Jacomeno Barrett from a left side Marcus Joseph cross to flatten the home side’s hopes of advancing into the semis.
Two minutes earlier Montego Bay United defender Winston Wilkinson saw red after picking up his second yellow card of the game for a challenge on Jason Marcano that sent the “Couva Sharks”’ midfielder crashing off the field and into the fourth official’s table.
Apart from a difficult game—something the Dale Saunders coached-Central had predicted—the “Couva Sharks” were forced to replace first choice goalkeeper Jan-Michael Williams with Akel Clarke just beyond the half hour mark with a suspected shoulder injury, which the Trinidad and Tobago international picked up in the 20th minute.
However Central, Caribbean champions on their Club Championship debut in 2015, went on to become the second TT Pro League outfit to qualifying for this season’s semi-final round after W Connection, who topped Group 1 hosted in Trinidad in February.
The two semi-final round winners and the third-place winners of the Club Championship will secure the three Caribbean berths at the 2016/17 Concacaf Champions League.
Connection, multiple-time Caribbean champions and last season’s runners-up, completed their group with maximum 9 points with wins over Dominican Republic’s Atlantico FC (4-2), Guadeloupe’s CS Moulien (5-1) and Suriname’s Inter Moengo Tapoe (3-1) and will meet Jamaica’s Arnett Gardens in the semi-finals on April 29.
Arnett Gardens topped Group 4 hosted in Dominican Republic with wins over Haiti’s America FC (3-0), Suriname’s SV Notch (8-4) and home side Club Atletico Pantoja (1-0).
While Central’s semi-final opponents for a second consecutive time, Don Bosco FC, topped the three-team Group 2 in Haiti. The hosts defeated Bermuda’s Somerset Cricket Club FC (5-0) and Guadeloupe’s La Gauloise de Basse-Terre (3-1).
Last season Central, coached then by former England and Tottenham defender Terry Fenwick, needed penalties to defeat Don Bosco 3-1 following a goalless semi-final draw before edging 9-man W Connection in the final to lift the Caribbean crown.
Montego Bay United 0 vs Central FC 1 (Darren Mitchell 86’)
Central FC line-up: Jan-Michael Williams (Akel Clarke 33rd minute); Kevon Villaroel, Kaydion Gabriel, Jamal Jack (Capt.), Andre Ettienne, Nathanial Garcia, Elijah Manners (Elton John 46th minute), Darren Mitchell, Sean De Silva, Jason Marcano, Marcus Joseph
Unused substitutes: Nicholas Dillon, Michael Yaw Darko, Kadeem Corbin, Leston Paul, Mickaeel Jem Gordon
Coach: Dale Saunders
Final Round (April 29)
W Connection (T&T) vs Arnett Gardens (Jamaica)
Don Bosco FC (Haiti) vs Central FC (T&T)
Central F.C. win the War of the Caribbean.
Central FC Release.
It was promoted in Jamaica as the “War of the Caribbean” and the Caribbean Club Championship game between current champions, Bankers Central F.C. and last year’s semi-finalists, Montego Bay United certainly lived up to its billing.
Both teams had overcome the other Group 3 opponent, Scholars International from Cayman Islands - Montego Bay by 4-0 and The Sharks by a 6-0 margin, which set up the Sunday night clash in the Montego Bay Sports Complex as a winner take all affair.
In fact, The Sharks would move forward to the semi-final stage –which sees three of the four teams move on to the Champions League – with a draw, due to a better goal difference.
The game kicked off in a very hostile environment with the Jamaican team’s supporters creating a cacophony of sound. The game, although generally played in good spirits, was physical and there were many incidents for the Cuban officials to adjudicate on that gave rise to roars of disagreement from the packed stands.
Montego Bay had obviously studied the recent games of Bankers Central F.C. and, in order to counter the high intensity style of play from the Trinidadians, set about to mirror those tactics. While it was very effective in the first half, with Mo Bay giving the Sharks very little time on the ball, the Jamaicans could not capitalise on their possession and get on the score sheet.
As early as the 2nd minute, defensive midfielder, Nathaniel Garcia was floored by the opposition and this set the tone of the game. On the 20th minute, a superb break from the Jamaicans finally saw them slip between the solid twin towers of Ettienne and Jack. Williams rushed from his line and made a superb block at the feet of the Montego Bay striker whose momentum carried him full pace into the Sharks national team keeper. The resulting impact saw Williams receive treatment for nearly 5 minutes before continuing. However after another 10 minutes of action it was clear that T&T’s No.1 could no longer continue and was replaced by Guyanese international, Akel Clarke.
The Jamaicans did hit the net in the 40th minute, but the goal was disallowed for handball. Another incident saw Mo Bay striker, Owayne Gordon accidently poked in the eye. While it was not intentional, the striker had to leave the field to attend hospital. These two incidents were enough to ignite the already volatile crowd. While most of their anger was directed at the officials, the atmosphere also became very intimidating for the Central F.C. party.
While the second half continued in the same manner, it was notable that the Jamaicans were beginning to tire. Clarke made a great save from a Mo Bay header and a fantastic tackle in the box by Jamal Jack in the 64th minute on Mo Bay striker Ottey seemed to signal to the home team that their best just wasn’t good enough. The tide began to turn in the Sharks favour, with their superior fitness allowing them more possession and time on the ball.
Yet the Jamaicans didn’t give up entirely, but another decent save from Clarke in the 80th minute must have added to the home team’s frustrations on the night. There had been a number of late and off the ball tackles from Montego Bay resulting in 5 yellow cards for the Jamaicans, but The Sharks were just as physical and collected 4 yellow cards for their efforts.