Suriname international Dimitrie Apai picked up the Final’s MVP and Best Forward honours while his side W Connection celebrated a record-extending eighth First Citizens Cup by dethroning Defence Force 3-1 on Friday night at the Ato Boldon Stadium in Couva.
Apai scored on either side of the break after the Savonetta Boys had fallen behind early to finish with a double while Defence Force’s Devorn Jorsling, who, understandably, had disappointment written all over his face at the final whistle despite finishing with a consecutive First Citizens Cup Most Goals award.
Jorsling’s failure to beat Connection shot-stopper and eventual Best Goalkeeper Julani Archibald early in the second half later haunted the Army/Coast Guard combination in front of an almost packed covered stand at the Home of Football which witnessed second-string Club Sando coming from behind to hold Civic to a 1-1 draw earlier then defeating the Point Fortin side 4-3 in a penalty shootout thanks to two saves from Stefan Berkeley to take a third-place finish.
In contrast, Archibald, who also denied the Defence Force veteran talisman on four set pieces from above the box and a flying save from open play on half hour, boasted the widest smile while he and his teammates, including Best Defender Maurice Ford, and Connection supporters and staff, including Coach of the Tournament Stuart Charles Fevrier, anxiously awaited the presentation of the 2017 First Citizens Cup.
Defence Force were propped against gloom with their second-placed medals hanging almost motionless from their necks after dominating the game and possession.
Connection, however, had made their chances count.
Hashim Arcia, who was later awarded Best Midfielder honour, looked to have put Defence Force on their way to a fourth First Citizens Cup when he bundled the ball over the line for 1-0 lead against his former side on fourteen minutes off a flicked Jorsling feed moments after Marcus Joseph had rattled the soldiers’ upright on the other end.
Connection, though, responded with two goals in a space of five minutes through Apai and Hughtun Hector for a 2-1 which they took all the way into the break despite Defence Force’s dominance.
Apai headed past Clarke from close up on nineteen minutes when he connected to Weslie John’s headed feed across the six yard area off a Hector free kick.
Then Hector put the Savonetta Boys in front in the 24th minute with a wonderful solo goal after a pass through the centre by Joseph.
“I knew it would have been a tough [match],” Hector said after the final. “They (Defence Force) have a mentality to put out everything in the game. They have descent players like [Trinidad and Tobago national team players Arcia and Gonzales]. Thank God we put away our chances early and kept fighting till the end.”
Defence Force had continued their control in the second half but failed to find a way back although creating a number of chances which included Archibald brilliantly deny Jorsling from the spot after Shaquille Bertrand was pulled down in the penalty area by Triston Hodge.
The St. Kitts and Nevis international goalie was also equal to a bullet strike from Curtis Gonzales in a play off a resulting after Connection cleared behind on a Jamali Garcia header which came off the bar ten minutes from time.
But Apai would put to sleep any chance of a comeback by Defence Force in the 85th minute after beating the offside trap to fire past Clarke for the 3-1 victory.
“I had a good mental preparation,” explained Apai. “I organized myself early and told myself we have to win something for the year.”
Apai said with his side virtually out of the Pro League title challenge it was important to capture the First Citizens Cup.
Fevrier meanwhile played down the pride of winning a record-extending eighth First Citizens Cup but said he was happy for the club and players.
The longstanding Connection coach said, “All of them are special. We are a club that always pride ourselves on winning silverware.
“Today we had to dig deep because Defence Force played very well but in the end we were tactically solid, especially defensively and we got the goals at critical times.”
With Connection set to tackle 1976 FC Phoenix on November 26 in the semi-finals of the FA Trophy which will also include Civic against Police FC, Fevrier hopes the First Citizens Cup success will help the Savonetta Boys to more silverware before the season ends.
The Connection coach is now bracing for a busy schedule in the coming week which will include facing San Juan Jabloteh and Central FC in league fixtures on Monday and Wednesday respectively. See upcoming fixtures below.
First Citizens Cup 2017 - Final
Defence Force 1 (Hashim Arcia 14’) vs W Connection 3 (Dimitrie Apai 19’, 85’, Hughtun Hector 24’), at Ato Boldon Stadium;
Point Fortin Civic 1 (Nathaniel Garcia 44’) vs Club Sando 1 (Akeem Redhead 85’), at Ato Boldon Stadium,
Club Sando won 4-3 on penalties.
Point Fortin Civic 3 v Club Sando 4
Jabari Mitchell (scored) - Nical Stephens (saved)
Nathaniel Garcia (scored) - Kemuel Rivers (scored)
Justin Sadoo (saved) - Leslie Joel Russell (scored)
Stephan Campbell (scored) - Josiah Trimmingham (scored)
Steven Joseph (saved) - Tyrone Charles (scored)
First Citizens Cup 2017
MVP – Dimitrie Apai (W Connection)
Most Goals – Devorn Jorsling (Defence Force) (3 goals)
Best Goalkeeper – Julani Archibald (W Connection)
Best Defender – Maurice Ford (W Connection)
Best Midfielder – Hashim Arcia (Defence Force)
Best Forward – Dimitrie Apai (W Connection)
Best Coach – Stuart Charles Fevrier (W Connection)
Defence Force FC: 25.Sheldon Clarke (GK); 3.Jamali Garcia, 5.Jerome Mc Intyre (16.Kellon Serrette 78th minute), 9.Devorn Jorsling, 10.Hashim Arcia, 15.Shaquille Bertrand (23.Kerry Joseph 86th minute), 17.Curtis Gonzales (Yellow Card) (6.Rodell Elcock 89th minute), 18.Reon Moore, 26.Justin Garcia, 37.Cassim Keller, 99.Jerwyn Balthazar.
Unused substitutes: 4.Dave Long, 8.Christopher Durity, 12.Jemel Sebro, 80.Aaron Enil.
Coach: Marvin Gordon
W Connection: 18.Julani Archibald (GK); 3.Gerard Williams, 4.Maurice Ford, 5.Triston Hodge (Yellow Card), 10.Dimitri Apai, 13.Hughtun Hector (Capt.), 20.Daniel Diaz (7.Neil Benjamin Jr. 57th minute), 23.Weslie John, 24.Jameel Antoine, 26.Isaiah Garcia (16.Alvin Jones minute) (Yellow Card), 99.Marcus Joseph (11.Shirvone Malik St. Prix 81st minute)
Unused substitutes: 33.Jason Belfon (GK); 2.Frank Padilla Gil, 14.Euller Eduardo Couto, 21.Ronell Paul.
Coach: Stuart Charles Fevrier
Referee: Rashby Mc Phie
Point Fortin Civic: 1.Marvin Phillip (GK) (Capt.); 7.Steven Joseph (Yellow Card), 16.Kelvin Modeste, 10.Jabari Mitchell, 12.Nathaniel Garcia, 24.Akinola Gregory (11.Keron Neptune 78th minute), 25.Shaquille Dublin, 26.Jeremiah Kesar, 28.Aelon Minors (53.Stephan Campbell 63rd minute), 30.Nion Lammy (21.Juma Clarence 63rd minute), 33.Justin Sadoo.
Unused substitutes: 52.Akini Adams (GK); 17.Kestwin Goolie, 90.Jared Bennett, 99.Kevin Moodie.
Coach: Reynold Carrington
Club Sando: 1.Stefan Berkeley (GK); 5.Nical Stephens, 6.Kemuel Rivers, 8.Kevon Piper (17.Jarod London 89th minute), 9.Akeem Redhead, 12.Michael Basdeo (10.Keron Cornwall 70th minute), 13.Tyrone Charles, 16.Leslie Joel Russell (Capt.) (Yellow Card), 23.Nicholas Thomas, 35.Adan Noel, 38.Josiah Trimmingham (Yellow Card).
Unused substitutes: 34.Kelvin Henry (GK); 11.Akim Armstrong, 15.Keyon Edwards, 18.Trevin Latapy, 37.Raygun Jawahir.
Coach: Angus Eve
Referee: Keilon Bacchus