San Juan Jabloteh looks set to join Trinidad and Tobago Pro League compatriots and two-time reigning champions Central FC in the Caribbean Club Championship 2017 Final Round to be hosted in Trinidad from May 14 - 21.
This after 10-man Jabloteh improved their stranglehold of Group E in St. Vincent with a 4-1 comeback win over Guadeloupe’s Club Sportif Moulien on Friday at Victoria Park in Kingstown.
Nineteen-year-old Panamanian midfielder Jairo Lambardo scored on either side of the break to cushion Jabloteh, after the San Juan Kings needed an equaliser through Verlon Mills after midfielder Minji Gomez had first put Moulien ahead.
Nathan Lewis capped off the victory with a late item but Jabloteh, already without injured striker Jamal Gay, must do without influential captain Damian Williams in their final group stage game against second-positioned System 3 Sport Academy on Sunday.
The Jamaican defensive midfielder received a direct red card midway in the second half. His position will be filled by Kion Joseph, Elijah Manners or Keyon Edwards, who according to coach Keith Jeffrey, have all “stepped up their game making the selection process a difficult one.”
The win, however, kept Jabloteh perfect with 6 points and a superior goal-difference of +12 ahead the clash against Vincentian team System 3 who have 3 points and a +3 goal-difference.
System 3, with a mountain of a challenge against Jabloteh, crushed Flames United 9-2 in the second game on Friday, jumping ahead of Moulien (3 points / +1 goal-difference) on goal-difference, while Flames, who will face the Guadeloupe side in their final game on Sunday, are anchored at the bottom without a point.
While a win or a draw will see Jabloteh through to the Final Round, a loss – based on the goal margin – can also suffice.
“We want to leave with 9 points,” said Keith Jeffrey, who plans to rotate his squad against System 3.
“We want to finish as shining group winners, but this game also allows us the opportunity to give other players more playing time, such as Tyrone Charles, Kadeem Corbin and Kennedy Hinkson, and give the team some fresh legs.”
The Jabloteh coach credited the performances of such players as Nathan Lewis, Keithy Simpson, Lombardo and Verlon Mills as “tremendous”, and said the competition within his entire team has been brilliant. He also singled out the performances of goalkeepers Javon Sample against Flames United and Andrew Durant against Moulien as great for the team.
Moulien had grabbed the lead on 13 minutes through Gomez and Jeffrey conceded that his side was outplayed for the first 20 minutes against the Guadeloupe outfit.
“I was very much impressed by Moulien,” said Jeffrey. “They were similar to Central FC in Trinidad, good structure in their play and all. But they (Moulien) didn’t have the speed to complement their play. Our speed and movement made the difference for us.”
Mills equalised for Jabloteh on 17 minutes, the Guyana winger's second goal of the tournament, before left-footed talent Lombardo gave the Pro League outfit a 2-1 lead by the 20th-minute.
Lombardo completed his double in the 68th-minute with his third goal of the campaign before he was replaced injured.
Lewis, who scored a hat-trick against Flames in Wednesday’s 9-0 opening win, got his fourth goal of the campaign five minutes from the end as Jabloteh moved one step closer to the Final Round.
Central, as reigning champions received a bye to the Final Round which will be contested in two groups of 3, with the overall group winners advancing into the title match and the Caribbean’s place in the newly re-formatted CONCACAF Champions League.
Haiti’s Racing FC (Group A), Dominica Republic’s Cibao FC (Group B) and Antigua and Barbuda side Grenades FC (Group C) have already qualified for the Final Round of the Caribbean Club Championship, while Puerto Rico Islanders, Jamaica’s Portmore United, Cayman Islands’ Scholars International and Suriname’s SV Transvaal will contest Group D in Puerto Rico from March 14 – 19.
Teams finishing second, third and fourth in the Caribbean Club Championship will participate in the Confederation’s newly launched club championship tournament for Caribbean and Central American clubs which kicks off in August. The winner of that tournament will also qualify for the CONCACAF Champions League.
San Juan Jabloteh 4 (Verlon Mills 17’, Jairo Lombardo 20’, 68’, Nathan Lewis 85’) vs Club Sportif Moulien 1 (Minji Gomez 13’), at Victoria Park, St. Vincent;
System 3 Sport Academy 9 vs Flames United 2, at at Victoria Park, St. Vincent.
San Juan Jabloteh team vs Club Sportif Moulien - Andrew Durrant (GK), Damian Williams (capt.) (Red Card), Akeem Benjamin (Josiah Trimmingham), Jevon Morris, Adrian Reid, Kion Joseph, Elijah Manners, Keithy Simpson, Jairo Lombardo (Tyrone Charles), Nathan Lewis, Vurlon Mills (Micah Lansiquot).
Group E Standings
# Team MP W D L GF GA GD Points
1 San Juan Jabloteh 2 2 0 0 13 1 +12 6
2 System 3 Sport Club 2 1 0 1 9 6 +3 3
3 Club Sportif Moulien 2 1 0 1 5 4 +1 3
4 Flames United 2 0 0 2 2 18 -16 0
(Sunday 12 March 2017)
Club Sportif Moulien (Guadeloupe) v Flames United SC (St Maarten), at Victoria Park, St. Vincent;
System 3 Sport Academy (St. Vincent & the Grenadines) v San Juan Jabloteh (T&T), at Victoria Park, St. Vincent.