Cale’ edge Connection on kicks after 3-3 tie in Digicel Pro Bowl semis; Plaza goal lifts Central over Police and into final
Central FC are definitely hoping to end the domestic season on a continued high, even amidst internal club wrangling over bonus disputes, but for Caledonia AIA, reaching the final of the 2015 Digicel Pro Bowl on 29 May now presents the Morvant/Laventille club the opportunity to rebound from a miserable low.
Caledonia, who finished the 2014-2015 Digicel Pro League (DPL) in eight place, one spot ahead of rock-bottom St. Ann’s Rangers despite a huge points gap, and only entered the Pro Bowl by virtue of a qualifier win over Rangers, surprised all on Friday night by ousting two-time defending Pro Bowl champions and five-time winners W Connection 5-4 on penalty kicks following a thrilling 3-3 draw in semi-final one at the Ato Boldon Stadium.
Later on, Central FC, 1-0 winners over Defence Force in the quarterfinal round a week ago thanks to a Willis Plaza goal, needed another goal from the Trinidad and Tobago international to get past last season’s defeated Pro Bowl finalists Police FC by the same score line.
Plaza drilled a low strike from the right, just six minutes into the match, to beat goalkeeper Adrian Foncette at the near post. That goal stood the winner and Central, this season’s DPL champions and First Citizens Cup winners who also bagged the Rawle Fletcher, Akeem Adams and Kevon Carter trophies by topping each round of the DPL, are now one win away from lifting another domestic title on the final day.
Earlier, Caledonia, coached by Jerry Moe, bounced back from an early goal down to lead the match 3-1 but allowed the huge advantage to slip away late before finally ousting Connection on kicks from the penalty mark.
Defender Mekeil Williams, who had put Connection ahead 1-0 lead just three minutes into the match by hitting past goalkeeper Shemel Louison from close up on a rebound, was the first to score from the spot by beating the Grenadian international goalie.
But teammate Shahdon Winchester stepped up for Connection’s second kick and his effort cannoned off the base of the upright. That miss haunted the title holders throughout the remainder of kicks despite Hashim Arcia, substitute Jomal Williams and captain Gerard Williams all finding the back of the net.
Meanwhile Caledonia, winners of the Pro Bowl in 2008 and defeated finalists in 2009 and 2012, were clinical from the spot with captain Kareem Joseph, Haitian defender Pierre Hitner, midfielder Keyon Edwards, utility player Nicholas Mercano and fullback Jameel Neptune all beating Connection goalkeeper Julani Archibald to put the Morvant/Laventille side into the final and making amends for giving away a commanding 3-1 regular time advantage.
Guyana forward Pernell Schultz had leveled Caledonia 1-1 in the 11th minute with a neat touch past Archibald to find the bottom far corner after a right side move orchestrated by Nathan Lewis.
Caledonia then took the lead for the first time in the 37th minute with Archibald beaten again across his body again with Kareem Joseph also finding the far bottom corner thanks to a perfectly timed and weighted pass by Lewis into the box for a 2-1 score.
Then by the 56th minute Caledonia were 3-1 in front after 33-year-old veteran forward Conrod Smith, who preserved his best performance of the season for Friday night before being replaced injured in the 81st minute, intercepted a back pass by Alvin Jones inside the box before hitting through the legs of defender Leslie Joel Russell who stood the Connection’s last line of defence on the goal line.
But that lead disappeared in the late stages after Connection’s Winchester scored off substitute Shannon Gomez’s right side cross in the 78th minute to reduce the deficit 2-3 and set up Arcia to leveled the scores 3-3 ten minutes later.
However Winchester’s miss on kicks from the penalty spot eventually saw Caledonia, who edged Point Fortin Civic 1-0 in the quarterfinal round to meet Connection, reach their fourth Pro Bowl final appearance and a last chance at ending the season on a high.
But Caledonia must wait two weeks before meeting Central in the title match on 29 May, while the “Couva Sharks”, led by coach Terry Fenwick, are set to return to CONCACAF Champions League 2015-2016 qualifying against Haiti’s Don Bosco FC in the semi-final round of the Caribbean Football Union (CFU) Club Championship on 22 May at the Ato Boldon Stadium, with the third-place playoff and final set two days later at the same venue.
W Connection are also in the semi-final round where they must face Jamaica’s Montego Bay United.
Both semi-final winners will automatically qualify for the CONCACAF Champions League and will contest each other for the 2015 Caribbean Club Champions honours, while the defeated semi-finalists will play for the third and final Caribbean berth at the 2015-2016 CCL.
Central and Connection, winners of Group 1 and 2, respectively, were previously carded to meet in the Caribbean Club Championship semi-final round based on the initial tournament 2015 format before it was revised by the Caribbean Football Union (CFU) following the group stage.
Semi Final Round Results
Caledonia AIA 3 (Pernell Schultz 11', Kareem Joseph 37', Conrad Smith 56') vs W Connection 3 (Mekeil Williams 3', Shahdon Winchester 78', Hashim Arcia 88')
Central FC 1 (Willis Plaza 6') vs Police FC 0
Kicks from the penalty mark
W Connection 4 Caledonia AIA 5
Mekeil Williams (scored) Kareem Joseph (scored)
Shahdon Winchester (denied by the post) Pierre Hitner (scored)
Hashim Arcia (scored) Keyon Edwards (scored)
Jomal Williams (scored) Nicholas Mercano (scored)
Gerrard Williams (scored) Jameel Neptune (scored)
Caledonia AIA: 1.Shemel Louison; 4.Conrad Smith (30.Domini Garnett 81st), 9.Keyon Edwards, 12.Kareem Joseph, 16.Pierre Hitner, 18.Trayon Bobb, 22.Jameel Neptune, 23.Jamil Joseph, 26.Nicholas Mercano, 27.Nathan Lewis (25.Anthony Charles 85th), 28.Purnell Schultz (29.Mickaeel Jem Gordon 68th)
Unused substitutes: 34.D'Eandre Villaroel (GK), 35.Israel Honore, 2.Kyle Mack, 25.Anthony Charles
Coach: Jerry Moe
W Connection: 18.Julani Archibald; 3.Gerrard Williams, 5.Mekeil Williams, 8.Yhon Stiven Reyes Lopez (27.Shannon Gomez 61st), 9.Shahdon Winchester, 12.Jerrel Britto, 14.Hashim Arcia, 19.Leslie Joel Russell, 36.Triston Hodge, 39.Alvin Jones (20.Christian Rodriguez 72nd), 65.Neil Benjamin Jr. (40.Jomal Williams 61st)
Unused substitutes: 13.Devaughn Elliot, 22.Aquelius Sylvester (GK), 26.Maurice Ford, 28.Aikim Andrews
Coach: Stuart Charles Fevrier
Match Referee: Keon Yorke
Police FC: 18.Adrian Foncette; 1.Kareem Freitas, 2.Jasimar Ashers, 7.Makesi Lewis, 17.Dexter Alleyne, 19.Christon Thomas, 20.Elijah Belgrave, 21.Todd Ryan, 23.Shaquille Nesbitt, 24.Jibri Mc David, 38.Kadeem Boyce (5.Anton Hutchinson 82nd)
Unused substitutes: 8.Kurdell Braithwaite, 10.Trevin Latapy, 40.Sharkeel Donatien, 22.Isaiah Farrel, 29.Clevon Mc Fee, 31.Theon Browne (GK)
Coach: Richard Hood
Central FC: 21.Jan-Michael Williams; 5.Akeem Benjamin, 45.Ataullah Guerra, 15.Kaydion Gabriel, 6.Leston Paul, 2.Elton John, 8.Sean de Silva (11.Darren Mitchell 71st), 3.Keion Goodridge, 10.Marvin Oliver, 4.Uriah Bentick, 33.Willis Plaza (99.Dwight Quintero 46th) (7.Jason Marcano 63rd)
Unused substitutes: 12.Jamal Jack, 1.Javon Sample (GK), 19.Nathaniel Garcia, 14.Jean-Luc Rochford
Coach: Terry Fenwick
Match Referee: Rodphin Harris