W Connection and Defence Force will bring down the curtain on the 2015/16 season when they tackle each other in the TT$100,000 winner-takes-all Digicel Pro Bowl final at the Ato Boldon Stadium on May 27.
Connection, four-time Pro Bowl champions, and Defence Force, champions in 2012, narrowly advanced out of the semi-finals on Friday night to set up their second final meeting in six months after the “Savonetta Boys” defeated the Army/Coast Guard combination 4-0 last December in the final of the Toyota Classic.
Last night, however, Connection needed kicks from the spot to outdo North East Stars 4-2 following a 0-0 stalemate in semi-final one at the Hasely Crawford Stadium, before a second half own goal handed Defence Force a 1-0 win over San Juan Jabloteh in semi-final two.
Jabloteh goalkeeper Shemel Louison was left beaten with 20 minutes left when defender Aquil Selby directed Hashim Arcia’s effort from the right into the back of the net to give Army the eventual winner.
It was unfortunate for Louison, whose performance had been excellent throughout the night for Keith Jeffrey’s side and included back-to-back saves in the 13th-minute to keep out a Devorn Jorsling free-kick and the rebound effort from Arcia.
The Grenada international also produced another save four minutes from the half when he measured a strike from distance by Arcia.
Substitute Josiah Trimmingham had the best look on goal with two minutes of regulation-time left for a Jabloteh equaliser but the forward’s strike, after turning brilliantly in the box, lacked venom, allowing goalkeeper Sheldon Clarke to make a low save.
Earlier, following another contest which lacked excitement in front of goal, goalkeeper Julani Archibald pulled off a save on the third to deny Stars midfielder Kerry Daniel before Dominican midfielder Anfernee Frederick put Connection in the lead during the penalty shootout.
Chike Sullivan was up next for Ross Russell’s men but the former Trinidad and Tobago Youth World Cup player struck the post before Connection’s St. Lucia international Kurt Frederick maintained his side scoring for a 4-2 win when he thumped a left-footer past Trinidad and Tobago national team call-up Glenroy Samuel.
Samuel was also beaten by powerful strikes from former Italy-based player Zaine Pierre and Alvin Jones after Kerry Baptiste and Ryan Stewart were clinical from the spot for the “Sangre Grande Stars” on the first two kicks.
Baptiste was closest to breaking the deadlock on 24 minutes when his header off a left side cross from Anthony Guppy clipped the crossbar, and seconds from the half Archibald produced a low save to put wide an effort from distance by the veteran forward.
The Stars’ next best opening arrived midway through the second half but midfielder Daniel, after skilfully creating room for himself inside the area, seemed shy on the look at goal, allowing the Connection defence to clatter the ball out of the box before it was hammered overbar by Sullivan.
Connection meanwhile, had their best opening minutes earlier when Frederick whipped in an excellent delivery from the left to find Suriname forward Dimitrie Apai, who opted to offer the chance to Malik St. Prix, whose attempt was blocked by the defence.
Apai did manage an attempt six minutes from time but Samuel made a save with his legs to keep the scoresheet blank to send the game into the penalty shootout.
The Stars will now refocus their attention on their final Digicel Pro League game against Jabloteh on May 21 with a win against the San Juan club securing the Kevon Carter (Round Three) trophy in the hands of the Sangre Grande club.
Connection, though, will resume to league action on Tuesday against Club Sando in the second game of a rescheduled double-header at the Ato Boldon Stadium from 8pm. League champions Central FC will meet Jabloteh in the earlier game from 6pm, before all teams return to play on the weekend of May 20-21 in the final slate of the 2015/16 DPL games as Defence Force and Jabloteh push for the final CONCACAF Champions League qualifiers spot.
W Connection 0 (4) vs North East Stars 0 (2)
North East Stars 2 W Connection 4
Kerry Baptiste (scored) Zaine Pierre (scored)
Ryan Stewart (scored) Alvin Jones (scored)
Kerry Daniel (saved) Anfernee Frederick (scored)
Chike Sullivan (post) Kurt Frederick (scored)
Defence Force 1 (Own Goal 70’) vs San Juan Jabloteh 0
W Connection: 18.Julani Archibald (GK) (Yellow Card), 2.Kurt Frederick, 3.Gerrd Williams (48.Zaine Pierre 82nd minute) (Yellow Card), 5.Triston Hodge, 10.Jomal Williams (46.Anfernee Frederick 84th minute), 12.Dimitrie Apai, 14.Andre Toussaint, 16.Alvin Jones, 25.Daneil Cyrus (Capt.), 26.Paolo De La Guardia Alvarez, 43.Malik St. Prix (17.Aikim Andrews 87th minute)
Unused substitutes: 1.Terrence Lewis, 4.Maurce Ford, 8.Briel Thomas (Yellow Card), , 27.Jelani Peters
Assistant coach: Earl Jean
North East Stars: 32.Glenroy Samuel, 3.Kion Joseph, 4.Jesus Perez, 5.Ryan Stewart, 6.Jean-Luc Rochford (14.Chike Sullivan 70th minute), 8.Anthony Guppy, 9.Gorean Highley (7.Kerry Daniel 56th minute), 19.Glenton Wolfe (24.Adrian Noel 56th minute), 25.Keryn Navarro, 26.Anthony Wolfe (Capt.), 40.Kerry Baptiste
Unused substitutes: 22.Cleon John (GK), 23.Brendon Figuera, 27.Quincy Charles, 39.Taryk Sampson
Coach: Ross Russell
Referee: Rodphin Harris
Defence Force: 25.Sheldon Clarke (GK), 2.Glynn Franklyn (Yellow Card), 8.Curtis Gonzales, 9.Devorn Jorsling (26.Richard Roy 81st minute), 10.Hashim Arcia (52.Stephan Campbell 86th minute), 11.Akeem Roach (99.Jerwyn Balthazar 75th minute), 12.Jemel Sebro, 13.Marvin Jones, 17.Ross Russell Jr., 20.Levi Serries, 21.Aklie Edwards, (50th minute)
Unused substitutes: 3.Jamali Garcia, 7.Jelani Felix, 30.Kishun Seecharan, 80.Aaron Enil (GK)
Coach: Marvin Gordon
San Juan Jabloteh: 30.Shemel Louison (GK), 6.Akeem Benjamin, 7.Jamal Gay (9.Brent Sam 89th minute), 8.Keyon Edwards (23.Kennedy Hinkson 77th minute), 10.Tyrone Charles, 11.Damian Williams (Capt.), 13.Fabian Reid, 18.Jevon Morris, 21.Aquil Selby (17.Josiah Trimmingham 85th minute), 24.Adrian Reid, 27.Nathan Lewis
Unused substitutes: 35.Andrew Durant (GK), 4.Garth Thomas, 14.Sean Bonval, 16.Kaashif Thomas
Coach: Keith Jeffrey
Referee: Gyasi Mc Donald