Leaders W Connection kept the pedal to the metal in the race for the Digicel Pro League 2016-17 crown after edging St. Ann’s Rangers 1-0 courtesy Dimitrie Apai’s first-half goal in the first game of a double-header at the Hasely Crawford Stadium on Tuesday night.
The win, Connection’s fifth in a row, extended the Savonetta Boys’ points tally to 37, five points ahead of Couva rivals Central FC, who have two games in hand including today’s (Wednesday) clash with Police FC from 3:30pm at the Larry Gomes Stadium.
Apai, the 22-year-old in-form Suriname international, notched his ninth league goal – five of them coming in the last five appearances – in the 20th-minute to go level with Defence Force forward Devorn Jorsling and Ma Pau Stars attacker Jerrel Britto at the top of this season’s scorers’ list.
Jorsling, though, had a difficult night in the second game of the Port-of-Spain double-header although his side, Defence Force, rallied to a 1-1 draw with rivals Morvant Caledonia United.
Caledonia, against the run of play, grabbed the lead through new signing Dylon King in the 26th-minute. The former Rangers forward unleashed a cracker to find the top corner of goalkeeper Sheldon Clarke’s netting after Lester Joseph cleverly allowed a Kordell Samuel cross to roll through his legs to find the oncoming King above the area.
Caledonia, however, had goalkeeper Marvin Phillip to thank on numerous occasions, including the Trinidad and Tobago international’s save to put a goal-bound Jorsling free-kick onto the crossbar seven minutes into the second half.
Jorsling also had an earlier free-kick which cannoned off the crossbar on the half-hour mark of a heated contest.
But despite Phillip’s heroics—with no less than seven saves on the night—he was unable to help the ninth-positioned Caledonia avoid a winless run of four games.
Aklie Edwards surfaced the hero for the Army/Coast Guard combination when he equalised on the hour mark by heading into Phillip’s exposed net after a deep Jorsling corner was headed back across the area.
Ten minutes later Caledonia midfielder and captain Akim Armstrong was put through on the other end against Clarke, who started in absence of suspended ‘keeper Andre Marchan, but the Defence Force goalie was equal to the task.
Goal-scorer King had the last bite towards goal on the stroke of ninety minutes but his effort flashed inside wide of Clarke’s far upright.
King’s former teammates had a difficult time searching for a way back against Connection in the earlier contest after Apai had directed a Kurt Frederick attempt past Rangers goalkeeper Christopher Biggette.
Connection had capitalised after dominating on possession while Rangers were left appealing for an offside against Apai, who could have easily ended with a handful to his name had he not spill on three clear-cut chances within the first hour and rattled the bar from distance ten minutes from time.
Rangers did create a glorious chance to level the score but attacker Josh Toussaint’s acrobatic scissor-kick sailed the ball overbar instead of controlling Devon Modeste’s cross on his chest before attempting to find the back of the net, as a furious coach Anthony Streete motioned to his player afterwards.
Also on Tuesday, Ma Pau Stars rebounded from a two-goal second-half deficit to hold Club Sando to a 2-2 draw at the Larry Gomes Stadium.
Akeem Humphrey opened the scoring in the 55th-minute for Sando before Kemuel Rivers made it 2-0 from the penalty spot ten minutes later. But late goals by Jerrel Britto and Nicholas Thomas in the 78th and 85th minutes, respectively, saw both sides walk away with a point each.
The biggest shocker of the day however, took place at Mahaica Oval when hosts Point Fortin Civic stunned San Juan Jabloteh 4-2 for their first win of the season despite losing ace forward Jamille Boatswain to Defence Force in the transfer window.
Boatswain, who made his Defence Force debut off the bench against Caledonia, netted seven times for Civic this season before completing his move to theTetron Boys this week.
But back home, Trinidad and Tobago youth footballers Darnell Hospedales and Nion Lammy were celebrating victory in Civic colours.
Hospedales opened his top flight account with a hat-trick, netting in the 3rd, 17th and 89th minutes for the hosts, interrupted by teammate Nion Lammy’s 39th-minute strike, while Elijah Manners and Nathan Lewis were the scorers for Jabloteh in the 50th and 68th minutes, respectively.
Civic will next face two-time defending league champions Central FC on Saturday.
Ma Pau Stars 2 (Jerrel Britto 78’, Nicholas Thomas 85’) vs Club Sando 2(Akeem Humphrey 55’, Kemuel Rivers 65’ penalty) at Larry Gomes Stadium;
Point Fortin Civic 4 (Darnell Hospedales 3’, 17’, 89’, Nion Lammy 39’) vs San Juan Jabloteh 2 (Elijah Manners 50’, Nathan Lewis 68’) at Mahaica Oval;
St. Ann’s Rangers 0 vs W Connection 1 (Dimitrie Apai 20’) at Hasely Crawford Stadium;
Defence Force 1 (Aklie Edwards 60’) vs Morvant Caledonia United 1 (Dylon King 26’) at Hasely Crawford Stadium.
St. Ann’s Rangers: 22.Christopher Biggette (GK), 8.Jameel Antoine, 10.Devon Modeste (Capt.), 12.Samuel Delice, 16.Richard Williams 21.Josh Toussaint, 23.Micah Lansiquot, 24.Jesse Williams, 26.Kathon St Hillaire, 28.Shakiyl Phillip
Unused substitutes: 1.Cleon John (GK), 7.Sedale Mc Lean, 11.Kazim Donald, 14.Kyle Bartholomew, 29.Keshawn Hutchinson, 32.Marvin Lee, 33.Osaze Springer.
Coach: Anthony Streete
W Connection: 18.Julani Archibald (GK), 2.Kurt Frederick, 3.Gerard Williams (Capt.), 8.Briel Thomas (Yellow Card), 10.Dimitrie Apai, 11.Neil Benjamin Jr. (35.Jesus Perez 89th minute), 14.Andre Toussaint, 17.Aikim Andrews, 20.Jamal Charles (Yellow Card) (26.Shaquille Bertrand 73rd minute), 23.Kevon Goddard, 27.Jelani Peters (Yellow Card).
Unused substitutes: 1.Terrence Lewis (GK), 4.Maurice Ford, 30.Shaquille John, 37.Daniel Diaz, 46.Anfernee Frederick.
Coach: Stuart Charles Fevrier
Referee: Gyasi Mc Donald
Defence Force: 25.Sheldon Clarke (GK), 2.Glynn Franklyn, 3.Jamali Garcia, 6.Rodell Elcock, 8.Christopher Durity, 9.Devorn Jorsling, 10.Hashim Arcia (19.Thurlani George 87th minute), 17.Curtis Gonzales (7.Jamille Boatswain 68th minute), 21.Aklie Edwards, 39.Akil Morris (23.Kerry Joseph 89th minute), 99.Jerwyn Balthazar (Capt.).
Unused substitutes: 5.Devon Jordan, 20.Levi Serries, 22.Anthony Charles, 37.Cassim Kellar.
Coach: Marvin Gordon
Morvant Caledonia United: 1.Marvin Phillip (GK), 5.Seon Thomas, 6.Taje Commissiong, 7.Kordell Samuel, 8.Anthony Charles, 9.Dylon King, 12.Kareem Joseph, 17.Aikim Armstrong (Capt.) (11.Dominic Douglas 87th minute), 20.Kareem Baptiste (Yellow Card), 23.Lester Joseph (27.Dominic Jangoo 68th minute), 29.Kelsey Benjamin (25.Jelani Felix 56th minute).
Unused substitutes: 13.Jordan Devonish, 14.Keron Bethelmy, 24.Michael Ten Pow, 31.Hakim Lucas (GK).
Coach: Rajesh Latchoo
Referee: Crystal Sobers
(Wednesday 18 January 2017)
Police FC vs Central FC—3:30pm, Larry Gomes Stadium
(Friday 20 January 2017)
St. Ann’s Rangers vs San Juan Jabloteh—6pm, Ato Boldon Stadium
Ma Pau Stars vs Defence Force—8pm, Ato Boldon Stadium
Morvant Caledonia United vs W Connection—6pm, Hasely Crawford Stadium
(Saturday 21 Janyary 2017)
Central FC vs Point Fortin Civic—3:30pm, Larry Gomes Stadium
(Sunday 22 January 2017)
Police FC vs Club Sando—3:30pm, Larry Gomes Stadium