Defending champions Central FC and two-time former winners W Connection both advanced from quarter-final round play in the 2016 Lucozade Sport Goal Shield on Friday night at the Ato Boldon Stadium to set up a semi-final showdown against each other on April 15.
However the “Couva Sharks” showed their superiority from the spot to win 3-1 while Rangers were left ruing missed chances and poorly executed penalty spot kicks, failing to secure their biggest win of the season and first semi-final contest in years.
“We have been working on finishing and penalties and unfortunately it just isn’t coming,” said Rangers coach Angus Eve after the game.
Rangers forward Johan Peltier and goalscorer Keron Cornwall both skied their attempts on the first and fourth kicks, respectively, while substitute Jameel Antoine stood his side’s only scorer after Kevon Piper was denied on the second kick by Central second choice goalkeeper Akel Clarke, who continues to occupy goal in absence of injured Jan-Michael Williams (shoulder).
Central players Jason Marcano, goalscorer Rundell Winchester and Leston Paul scored against Rangers goalie Christopher Biggette with Elijah Manners registering the "Couva Sharks" only failed attempt after hitting the crossbar on the second kick.
“We never doubted ourselves on penalties,” Central FC coach Dale Saunders told ttproleague.com. “We have been practicing penalties on the training ground and have been one hundred percent.
“We are grateful for the result. The season is long and hard, and with our players playing [continuously] from the CONCACAF Champions League (2014/15), we are now seeing some tired legs. It’s all about how we manage our players now as we look ahead.
“I knew Rangers were going to be tough opponents. We had a sending off and it was unfortunate but we grind it out and are happy to go into the next round.”
W Connection, in the second game of the Couva quarter-final round double-header, cruised to a 4-1 win over North East Stars, exacting revenge after a 3-1 loss to the Sangre Grande-based club in the Digicel Pro League a week ago while setting the stage for a second ‘Couva Clásico’ within the next week.
“I am very pleased with the effort from our team,” said W Connection technical director/head coach Stuart Charles-Fevrier. “It was one of our better games in recent times. We were more consistent and much better in our execution as a team.”
W Connection, six points behind leaders and defending champions Central on the DPL standings, will meet the “Couva Sharks” in league competition on Tuesday April 12 from 8pm at the Ato Boldon Stadium for what will now also be a preview of their semi-final showdown three days later.
Shahdon Winchester fired Connection ahead of North East Stars 1-0 in the 10th minute when he found the back of goalkeeper Glenroy Samuel’s far netting following a counterattack led by left full-back Kurt Frederick, who was replaced injured midway through the first half, and a feed into the area by midfielder and captain Hughtun Hector.
Four minutes later Samuel had keep out a Briel Thomas effort at the bottom near corner but had little work for the rest of the half with Winchester (S) and Neil Benjamin Jr. hitting overbar on excellent opportunities to at least force the former Trinidad and Tobago Youth World Cup goalie into action.
Kerry Baptiste later levelled the Stars 1-1 three minutes into the second half with his ninth goal from 6 games in all competitions by unleashing a close range half volley past W Connection goalkeeper Julani Archibald, who had two minutes earlier kept out an Anthony Wolfe strike.
But the 2009 and 2013 Lucozade Sport Goal Shield winners, Connection, seeking their third major trophy this season after the First Citizens Cup and Toyota Classic, stormed back with two goals in a space of five minutes, scored by defender Julani Peters and midfielder Andre Toussaint, before winger Benjamin put the game out of Stars reach with three minutes of regular time left.
Peters restored Connection’s lead with a 2-1 score on 58 minutes when he struck a low left-footed strike past Samuel after racing onto a Jabari Mitchell feed into the box.
The Stars defence were left beaten again in the 62nd minute when midfielder Andre Toussaint raced through the middle to latch onto a well-weighted Hector pass before sending a low strike beyond Samuel and into the bottom corner for a 3-1 advantage.
Benjamin then sealed the 4-1 win with a sublime finish, chipping Samuel in the 87th minute after racing beyond the Stars defence.
It was the sort of finishing bottom-of-the-league-table-Rangers lacked in the earlier game against Central although proving they were formidable quarter-final round opponents after edging Club Sando 1-0 in the qualifiers on Tuesday.
Rangers had held a 1-0 lead on 20 minutes when Cornwall fired past goalkeeper Clarke off teammate Anselm Jackson’s rebound strike.
But Rangers could have enjoyed a better advantage by then, had Jackson not fluff two earlier one-on-one chances by hitting directly at Clarke.
Central were back on level terms with 1-1 score in the 29th minute after Rundell Winchester shook off two defenders before unleashing a left-footed strike past goalkeeper Biggette who had played the ball to the feet of opposing midfielder Sean De Silva from a goal kick.
But the “Couva Sharks” were in no way superior to their opponents and their troubles compounded by the hour mark when attacker Marcus Joseph was sent off for a dangerous sliding tackle on Rangers left-back Kareem Baptiste.
Referee Keilon Bacchus, who had booked Joseph twelve minutes earlier along with Rangers midfield standout Jeromie Williams following an incident involving both players, spared no mercy when he whipped out the red card for the Central player.
Winchester (R) offered Central’s best effort of the game winner to avoid kicks from the penalty mark, but his strike in the 70th minute flashed across the face of goal after reminding a handful of defenders of his incredible speed.
“I thought the boys were tremendous tonight,” said Eve, who explained that he shuffled his team’s formation and tactics since the March three-week break in competition and was happy with the progress.
“I thought we got the defensive part of our game right. Going forward we looked really good. I don’t think they (Central) had more than three shots in the whole game – a team like Central FC – and I thought in the first half we should have killed the game off. We had some tremendous chances with Johan Peltier, Kevon Piper and Jackson who didn’t put them away.
“If you look at the scores we have been having since in the past couple months, losing 2-1 to W Connection, 2-1 to Defence Force, 3-1 to Central very late and even recently tying with Jabloteh 1-1, we have been on a good run just not converting the performances into results.
“We progressed into the quarter-final round in a knockout competition, we haven’t done that in recent times. We have 11 points in the league, we have not done that in a long time. So definitely we can see we are improving,” ended the Rangers coach.
Quarter-final action continues Saturday April 9 (today) at the Hasely Crawford Stadium with Defence Force to tackle Morvant Caledonia United from 4pm, then San Juan Jabloteh against Police FC from 6pm.
Central FC 1 (Rundell Winchester 29') vs St. Ann’s Rangers 1 (Keron Cornwall 20')
St. Ann’s Rangers 1 v Central FC 3 (Penalties)
Johan Peltier (overbar) Jason Marcano (scored)
Kevon Piper (saved) Elijah Manners (crossbar)
Jameel Antoine (scored) Rundell Winchester (scored)
Keron Cornwall (overbar) Leston Paul (scored)
W Connection 4 (Shahdon Winchester 10', Jelani Peters 58', Andre Toussaint 63', Neil Benjamin 87') vs North East Stars 1 (Kerry Baptiste 48')
Central FC: 30.Akel Clarke; 8.Sean De Silva (18.Michael Darko 83rd minute), 11.Darren Mitchell, 12.Jamal Jack, 14.Nicholas Dillon (7.Jason Marcano 65th minute), 15.Kaydion Gabriel, 19.Nathaniel Garcia, 22.Leston Paul (Capt.), 25.Elijah Manners, 77.Rundell Winchester, 99.Marcus Joseph (Yellow Card + Red Card)
Unused substitutes: 1.Javon Sample (GK), 5.Derron John, 9.Kadeem Corbin, 26.Jem Gordon, 33.Tekay Hoyce, 45.Shem Clauzel
Coach: Dale Saunders
St. Ann’s Rangers: 22.Christopher Biggette; 2.Shakiyl Phillip, 7.Sedale Mc Lean (29.Jameel Antoine 81st minute), 8.Kevon Piper, 9.Kevon Cornwall, 10.Johan Peltier (Yellow Card), 13.Jeromie Williams (Yellow Card), 15.Anselm Jackson (17.Kadeem Hutchinson 69th minute), 16.Richard Williams, 18.Trevin Latapy (Capt.) (Yellow Card), 27.Kareem Baptiste
Unused substitutes: 1.Stefan Berkeley (GK), 11.Kevon Edwards, 20.Shomarie Antoine, 33.Mykal Campbell, 34.Jerrell Hibbert
Coach: Angus Eve
Match Referee: Keilon Bacchus
W Connection: 18.Julani Archibald; 2.Kurt Frederick (Triston Hodge 26th minute), 4.Maurice Ford, 8.Briel Thomas (23.Kevon Goddard 76th minute), 9.Shahdon Winchester, 11.Neil Benjamin Jr., 13.Hughtun Hector, 14.Andre Toussaint, 26.Paolo De La Guardia Alvarez (17.Aikim Andrews 54th minute), 27.Jelani Peters, 34.Jabari Mitchell
Unused substitutes: 1.Terrence Lewis (GK), 20.Jamal Charles, 40.Isaiah Garcia, 43.Malik St. Prix
Coach: Stuart Charles Fevrier
North East Stars: 1.Glenroy Samuel; 3.Kion Joseph, 4.Jesus Perez, 5.Ryan Stewart, 7.Kerry Daniel (41.Reon Moore 63rd minute), 8.Anthony Guppy (9.Gorean Highley 54th minute), 19.Glenton Wolfe, 21.Neil Mitchell (14.Chike Sullivan 78th minute), 25.Keryn Navarro (Capt.), 26.Anthony Wolfe, 40.Kerry Baptiste
Unused substitutes: 22.Cleon John (GK), 2.Shane Hospidales, 6.Jean-Luc Rochford, 14.Chike Sullivan, 24.Adrian Noel
Coach: Ross Russell
Match Referee: Rashby Mc Phie