Neil Benjamin Jr. contributed with two assists off the bench to return W Connection – fresh from their record-extending eighth First Citizens Cup triumph – to winning ways in the Trinidad and Tobago Pro League with a decisive 3-0 win over hosts San Juan Jabloteh in a rescheduled fixture at Barataria Oval on Monday.
Benjamin, who entered play after the interval, set up Dimitri Apai to open the scoring, then his shot later on allowed Jameel Antoine to cushion the Savonetta Boys on the rebound before another substitute, Marcus Joseph, completed the comfortable victory with a superb free kick at the death.
The win pulled the second-positioned Connection (30 points) five points clear of Club Sando (25 points) to strengthen coach Stuart Charles Fevrier’s men’s position for a top-two finish which earn teams CONCACAF qualifying spots in the form of the Caribbean Club Championship.
The multiple-time former Caribbean champions also moved within six points of North East Stars—the Derek King coached-side with a hand on the PL 2017 crown with just three league games left and on a six-game league winning streak.
The Stars, already qualified for next season’s Caribbean Club Championship, will look to restore their nine-point PL lead today (Tuesday) from 4pm at the Arima Velodrome when they host Club Sando – the Angus Eve coached-side coming off a narrow 1-0 defeat against Police FC in one of two rescheduled league fixtures last Sunday.
Connection meanwhile, must resume league play on Wednesday from 6pm at the Ato Boldon Stadium against rivals Central FC, whose miserable season continued last Sunday with a 2-1 loss at Point Fortin Civic.
Apai, double-scorer against Defence Force in the final of the 2017 First Citizens Cup last Friday, broke the deadlock against Jabloteh in the 66th minute after Benjamin controlled a Marcus Joseph cross into the box and fed the Suriname international for a simple finish past goalkeeper Javon Sample who had made two brilliant saves in the first half to deny Malik Shirvone St. Prix and Brazilian Euller Eduardo Couto.
Jabloteh, who had a free kick goal disallowed early on, fell further behind in the 82nd minute when Antoine fired past the hapless Sample who initially blocked out a shot from Benjamin but could not help his side avoid a sixth league loss in their last seven league games.
Joseph then unleashed a left-footed free kick from the top of the box, beating the height of the wall and leaving Sample motionless at the ball entered the back of the Jabloteh net to complete the 3-0 win—the kind of result Fevrier would look to in league outings later this week and into Sunday’s FA Trophy semi-final clash with 1976 FC Phoenix from 4pm at the Ato Boldon Stadium. Police FC will tackle Morvant Caledonia United in semi-final two from 6:15pm.
San Juan Jabloteh 0 vs W Connection 3 (Dimitri Apai 66’, Jameel Antoine, 82’, Marcus Joseph 89’), at Barataria Oval.
San Juan Jabloteh: 1.Javon Sample (GK); 3.DeJon Waldropt, 5.Shakiyl Phillip, 7.Elijah Manners, 11.Damian Williams (Capt.), 12.Keron Bethelmy, 17.Sean Bonval, 18.Jevon Morris, 21.Domique Douglas (22.Kadeem Hutchinson 6th minute), 23.Kennedy Hinkson (13.Julio Noel 88th minute), 27.Nathan Lewis.
Unused substitutes: 30.Shemel Louison (GK); 4.Nkosi David.
Coach: Keith Jeffrey
W Connection: 33.Jason Belfon (GK); 2.Frank Padilla Gil, 10.Dimitri Apai, 11.Malik Shirvone St. Prix (3.Gerard Williams 74th minute), 14.Euller Eduardo Couto (99.Marcus Joseph 57th minute), 19.Briel Thomas, 20.Daniel Diaz (7.Neil Benjamin Jr. 46th minute), 21.Ronell Paul, 23.Weslie John, 24.Jameel Antoine, 26.Isaiah Garcia.
Unused substitutes: 1.Terrence Lewis (GK); 4.Maurice Ford, 5.Triston Hodge, 37.Cephas St. Rose.
Coach: Stuart Charles Fevrier
Referee: Joel Cox
(Tuesday 21 November 2017)
North East Stars vs Club Sando, 4pm, Arima Velodrome;
Morvant Caledonia United vs Point Fortin Civic, 5pm, Hasely Crawford Stadium (training field);
Defence Force vs St. Ann’s Rangers, 6pm, Ato Boldon Stadium.
(Wednesday 22 November 2017)
San Juan Jabloteh vs Police FC, 4pm, Barataria Oval;
Central FC vs W Connection, 6pm, Ato Boldon Stadium.