W Connection returned to the top of the Pro League 2017 standings last night with a 2-1 Neil Benjamin-inspired comeback win over previous leaders San Juan Jabloteh in the second game of a double-header at the Ato Boldon Stadium in Couva.
Benjamin equalised in the second half with a brilliant solo goal before being involved in two other items, scored by a Jabloteh shirt and substitute Jamal Charles—all after the visitors had grabbed the lead against the run of play from a converted penalty by Josiah Trimmingham in the first half.
The night’s appetizer also had its exciting moments, when Club Sando, in the earlier game were ruthless, defeating Police FC 4-0 for their second consecutive win on the trot.
Keron Cornwall scored on either side of the break for the Angus Eve-coached Sando, who also had second half items from midfielder Jarod London and substitute forward Adan Noel.
Eve’s starting had line-up remained unchanged after last Tuesday’s 2-0 win over St. Ann’s Rangers, and the Oranges went ahead on 21 minutes and never turned back.
Kevon Piper on a counterattack found Tuesday’s double scorer Tyrone Charles, who controlled off his chest inside the box before finding Cornwall in the middle, and the Sando forward held his composure before firing past a hapless Adrian Foncette in Police goal.
Cornwall failed to add another to his name in the 73rd minute when he spilled wide off another Charles pass.
But Sando were already two goals up by then thanks to a solid finish from team captain London, who beat the outstretched arm of Foncette five minutes into the second half—Piper with the assist again following a right side build-up by Sando involving Nicholas Thomas.
Police, who were eventually hurdled by Sando for fifth spot, were earlier denied twice by goalkeeper Stefan Berkeley but got within inches of pulling a goal back when Elijah Belgrave’s deflected rocket strike cannoned off the bar six minutes from time.
Cornwall, though, would get to his double on 87 minutes, putting the match totally out of the Lawmen’s reach with a three-nil score by smashing a low drive past Foncette from the right and into the far corner after running onto a Jay-son Joseph pass over the top and making light work of defender Ryan O’Neil inside the area.
Police surely considered themselves lucky not to concede another moments earlier when Sando substitutes Michael Basdeo and Akeem Redhead combined, but the latter—unchallenged at the back post—spilled a header wide.
However another substitute, Adan Noel, was in no charitable mood and completed the 4-0 rout deep in stoppage time. Nicholas Thomas, the promising right full-back, had given another of his attacking runs, then a defence-splitting feed to find Noel, who hit low past Foncette.
Connection, in the top of the table-clash, also celebrated their final goal of the night deep in stoppage-time when substitute and Grenada international Jamal Charles buried his shot past Jabloteh goalkeeper Javon Sample for the 3-1 win after combining with Benjamin in the area.
But it wasn’t best of nights in the finishing department for Connection, who should have at least, walked away double the goal advantage.
Connection’s first half of missed chances included falling behind after twenty-six minutes.
Trimmingham had converted powerfully from the penalty spot for the San Juan Kings after referee Keilon Bacchus ruled that Connection defender Gerard Williams had brought down Jamaican midfielder Keithy Simpson in the area.
Jabloteh forward Julio Noel then failed to add to Connection’s miseries and put his side in a favourable lead five minutes from the half when he fired overbar from inside the box after brilliantly controlling a Kion Joseph cross in mid-air ahead of defender Maurice Ford.
But moments after Dimitri Apai curled an attempt onto the Jabloteh crossbar early in the second half, Benjamin, who fed the pass to the Suriname forward, took matters into his own hands.
Benjamin, a lightening-paced winger, blew past Jabloteh’s evergreen utility player Kennedy Hinkson in the area before chipping Sample in the 55th minute to level the scores at 1-1 as the San Juan Kings conceded their first goal of the season.
Jabloteh, having to do without their star player Nathan Lewis due to a sport hernia, were no match for the attacking prowess of Connection and it was only a matter of time for the Savonetta Boys to take the lead.
That time wasn’t far away.
Three minutes after levelling his side, Benjamin found Alvin Jones inside the right of the area, and the latter powerful ball across the six yard area cannoned off the legs of Trimmingham and into the back of the Jabloteh net.
Own goal. Connection in front 2-1.
Sample, who had risked injury to his arm in the first half to keep out a powerful Jones’ free kick, couldn’t avoid the end of Jabloteh’s four-game unbeaten spell.
The shot-stopper was hung out to dry by his defence in the fourth and final minute of stoppage time and scorers Jamal Charles and Benjamin led the Connection 3-1 celebration.
Pro League 2017 action resumes from 4pm today (Saturday) at the Arima Velodrome when third-place North East Stars, with three wins in as many games, take on MIC-IT St. Ann’s Rangers.
Then on Tuesday, the Ato Boldon Stadium comes alive again with a double-header. Defence Force and Point Fortin Civic will battle from 6pm, followed by Morvant Caledonia United taking on three-time PL holders Central FC from 8pm.
Club Sando 4 (Keron Cornwall 21’, 87’, Jared London 50’, Adan Noel 95’) vs Police FC 0, at Ato Boldon Stadium;
W Connection 3 (Neil Benjamin Jr. 55’, Josiah Trimmingham Own Goal 58’, Jamal Charles 90’+4) vs San Juan Jabloteh 1 (Josiah Trimmingham 26’ pen.), at Ato Boldon Stadium.
Club Sando: 1.Stefan Berkeley (GK), 6.Kemuel Rivers, 8.Kevon Piper (12.Michael Basdeo 83rd minute), 10.Keron Cornwall, 11.Akim Armstrong, 13.Tyrone Charles (9.Akeem Redhead 78th minute), 16.Leslie Joel Russell (Yellow Card), 17.Jared London (Capt.) (35.Adan Noel 69th minute), 18.Trevin Latapy (Yellow), 23.Nicholas Thomas, 27.Jay-son Joseph.
Unused substitutes: 34.Kelvin Henry (GK), 4.Rondell Payne, 5.Nical Stephens, 15.Keyon Edwards.
Coach: Angus Eve
Police FC: 18.Adrian Foncette (GK), 3.Ryan O’Neil, 5.Kenaz Williams (23.Shaquille Williams 66th minute), 6.Jibri Mc David, 9.Jameel Perry (Yellow Card), 10.Kareem Freitas (11.Micah Lewis 59th minute), 12.Niquan Caruth, 13.Dillon Kirton (Yellow Card), 20.Elijah Belgrave, 21.Todd Ryan (Capt.), 24.Keiron Benito (16.Joshua Leach 78th minute).
Unused substitutes: 22.Theon Browne (GK), 4.Kadeem Boyce, 8.Kurdell Brathwaite, 38.Kevin Lewis.
Coach: Richard Hood
Referee: Rashby Mc Phie
W Connection: 18.Julani Archibald (GK), 3.Gerard Williams (Yellow Card), 4.Maurice Ford, 5.Triston Hodge, 6.Kevon Goddard, 7.Neil Benjamin Jr., 10.Dimitri Apai (23.Jamal Charles 75th minute), 13.Hughtun Hector, 16.Alvin Jones (32.Isaiah Hudson 78th minute), 26.Isaiah Garcia (21.Ronell Paul 87th minute), 99.Marcus Joseph.
Unused substitutes: 1.Terrence Lewis (GK), 17.Qian Grosvenor, 24.Jameel Antoine, 30.Shaquille John.
Coach: Stuart Charles-Fevrier
San Juan Jabloteh: 1.Javon Sample (GK), 3.Josiah Trimmingham (Yellow Card), 6.Akeem Benjamin, 9.Keithy Simpson, 11.Damian Williams (Capt.), 12.Kion Joseph (20.Aaquil Campbell 80th minute), 13.Julio Noel, 16.Jairo Lombardo (7.Elijah Manners 63rd minute), 18.Jevon Morris, 22.Kadeem Hutchinson (17.Vernon Mills 63rd minute), 23.Kennedy Hinkson.
Unused substitutes: 30.Shemel Louison (GK), 5.Shakiyl Phillip, 14.Hayden Tinto, 21.Dominique Douglas.
Coach: Keith Jeffrey
Referee: Keilon Bacchus