W Connection are once again the Digicel Charity Goal Shield champions, edging rivals Central FC 1-0 for the 2014 title on Saturday night at the Ato Boldon Stadium, Couva.
A first half strike by attacker Hashim Arcia seperated both sides before the break and lasted till the final blow of referee Rodphin Harris’ whistle, earning the 2012 and 2013 Charity Shield winners the title a third consecutive time.
Arcia, who was eventually voted the Charity Shield MVP for a second consecutive time, slipped past his markers on the right of the area and upon entering the 18-yard box, the lanky Connection forward sent in a low strike to beat goalkeeper Jan-Michael Williams at the near post in the 39th minute.
“W Connection had two chances and they scored from where we shouldn’t [concede] a goal,” said debuting Central FC head coach Zoran Vranes.
The disappointed 63-year-old Serbian, a former T&T Under-20 and Under-23 coach and Senior Team assistant coach, who took up the position left vacant by Englishman Terry Fenwick, said, “We know we have problem in attack because we are surely missing attackers. But if you organise the games the right way, then we create chances. As a matter of fact we had many chances to shoot.
“We had a bad first half performance. We played like we were never together before. Also many guys didn’t follow the instructions that were in our practice sessions. Everybody played for themselves, their own game, which cost us a loss that we didn’t expect …at least easily. W Connection absolutely deserve it, especially in the first half.”
Central, without last season’s forwards Willis Plaza and Rundell Winchester who both joined Belgium third division side CS Visé along with defender Elton John, started with Jason Marcano up front and a midfield that included Ataullah Guerra, Leston Paul, Sean de Silva, Kaydion Gabriel and newcomer Qian Grosvenor, while 39-year-old veteran-creative-midfielder Marvin Oliver was tucked in central defense alongside Akeem Benjamin, with Darren Mitchell and newcomer Marcelle Francois holding wide defensive roles.
And despite the second half introductions of midfielder Jean-Luc Rochford, striker Dwight Quintero and 19-year-old attacker Nathaniel Garcia, Central failed to stage a comeback.
“It’s the first game of the season and we tried to play a team game,” said Connection’s hero, Arcia. “It was a good win for our team, especially for our (T&T) Under-20 players that weren’t part of the squad tonight (Saturday).”
Jabari Mitchell, promoted from the W Connection’s Reserves, Mathew Woo Ling, and former Jabloteh Reserve players Martieon Watson, Aikim Andrews, Akeem Garcia and Shannon Gomes who joined the ‘Savonnetta Boys’ during the pre-season, were left out of selection by Connection head coach Stuart Charles Fevrier, having been on international duty, represented Trinidad and Tobago successfully at the just concluded Caribbean Under-20 Championship.
While Central’s Levi Garcia, Nicholas Dillon, Kevon Goddard and goalkeeper Javon Sample were left out of Vranes’ side for the same reason of not being able to prepare with their club.
“The feeling [right now]is something I cant even explain,” continued Arcia, thrusting his MVP Award and the Digicel Charity Shield into the air. “To receive the MVP Award two years in a row is a big accomplishment for me.”
Last season Arcia scored twice against Defence Force in a 4-2 result and picked up the MVP Award in the 2013 edition against the side Connection also defeated 2-0 in 2012.
The talented forward also struck the upright in the 43rd minute but from an offside position after a deflected Devaughn Elliot attempt rolled free in the area.
Left-back Kurt Frederick had earlier efforts for Connection in the 11th and 36th minutes but the St Lucia national team player failed to force saves out of goalkeeper Williams.
W Connection’s 19-year-old debutant Aaquil Campbell, one of three new additions to Fevrier’s squad making their debuts, was impressive on the night.
Talented and brave, the diminutive midfielder even had a couple attempts; troubling the side netting in the 18th minute but anxiously blasted overbar in the 77th minute from inside the six-yard area following a giveaway by Oliver.
Much earlier, in the 25th minute to be exact, it was Central’s Grovsner that forced the best save of the match when Connection goalkeeper Julani Archibald gloved the powerful 20-yard effort overbar.
Archibald also made a comfortable take in the 47th minute following a waste by Central’s Paul, who failed to do better with the goalie at his mercy, after De Silva lifted a neat pass over the defense.
The St. Kitts-Nevis national goalie also made another save in stoppage time, pushing wide a low deflected De Silva effort.
And on the resulting corner, even Central goalkeeper Williams, who made an earlier save against Jerrel Britto, joined his teammates inside the Connection area, and was forced to retreat desperately following a counterattack by the ‘Savonnetta Boys’.
Luckily, Williams’ side avoided possible embarrassment when Rochford sacrificed himself to a yellow card with a foul on Connection’s St. Lucian debutant Jamil Joseph, halting the ‘Savonnetta Boys’ attack 25-yards out.
However at the final whistle, Connection starting with Archibald in goal; Kurt Frederick, Mekeil Williams, Joseph and Jerrel Britto in defense; Gerard Williams and Tremain Shayn Paul in midfield; Campbell, Arcia, Jamal Clarence and Elliot in attack, and used Keon Boucher and Dimitrie Apai off the bench, where the ones celebrating.
“I’m pleased with the win and pleased with our performance tonight,” said Fevrier following the match.
The Connection coach added, “It’s a good start for our confidence. It was a tough game but I thought we managed it well. I was pleased with the performance because I know that we are not one hundred percent right now in our form. But I always felt we were good enough to get a good result.
“They (Central) were much better in the second half [against us] but we were better in the first half. They made some adjustments in the second half and made it difficult for us but we were able to readjust our team to deal with the situation.”
Fevrier, who led W Connection to last season’s Digicel Pro League, the FA Trophy, the Toyota Classic, the Digicel Pro Bowl and Charity Shield, explained that his pre-season “was disjointed because of the absence of a number of players due to Men’s Caribbean Cup qualifiers and the just concluded Caribbean Under-20 Championship.”
But with four more titles to defend and others – the First Citizens Cup and Lucozade Sport Goal Shield – that were lifted by Central FC, and the Caribbean Club Championship and CONCACAF Champions League qualification to play for, Fevrier said that winning Saturday’s Charity Shield will surely boost his side’s confidence.
Digicel Charity Shield 2014
W Connection 1 – 0 Central FC
Hashim Arcia 39’
W Connection: 18. Julani Archibald, 3. Gerard Williams (C), 2. Kurt Frederick, 4. Jamil Joseph, 5. Mekeil Williams, 11. Tremain Shayn Paul, 12. Jerrel Britto, 13. Devaughn Elliot (Keon Boucher 71st), 14. Hashim Arcia, 17. Jamal Clarence (32. Dimitrie Apai 80th), 30. Aaquil Campbell (36. Triston Hodge 83rd).
Unused substitutes: 10. Yefer Steven Lozano, 16. Anslem Jackson, 21. Levi Serries, 22. Aquelius Sylvester (GK)
Coach: Stuart Charles Fevrier
Central FC: 21. Jan-Michael Williams, 10. Marvin Oliver (C), 5. Akeem Benjamin, 45. Ataullah Guerra (14. Jean-Luc Rochford 46th), 11. Darren Mitchell, 7. Jason Marcano (19. Nathaniel Garcia 75th), 15. Kaydion Gabriel, 6. Leston Paul, 17. Marcelle Francois, 9. Qian Grosvenor (99. Dwight Quintero 46th), 8. Sean de Silva.
Unused substitutes: 30. Akel Clarke (GK), 23. Denzil Daniel, 22. Samuel Delice, 13. Seon Thomas.
Coach: Zoran Vranes.
Match Referee: Rodphin Harris.