W Connection will join newly crowned T&T Pro League champions and débutantes North East Stars at next season’s Concacaf Champions League qualifying in the Caribbean Football Union Club Championship despite a 1-0 loss to Morvant Caledonia United at Ato Boldon Stadium, Couva on Tuesday.
Playing in the final match of the 2017 season, W Connection entered the match knowing they had already qualified for the CFU Championship, after third placed Defence Force was earlier held to a 0-0 draw by fourth-placed Club Sando, at Hasely Crawford Stadium, Mucurapo.
At the Arima Municipal Stadium, Arima, champions North East Stars was hoping to end on winning note, just as they started in front of home fans, but instead ended with a 3-2 defeat at the hands of fifth-placed San Juan Jabloteh.
Stars’ coach Derek King’s idea to field a number of non-starters backfired in the first-half with Julio Noel, Sean Bonval and Kadeem Hutchinson scoring past goalkeeper Jabari Brice to put Jabloteh 3-0 ahead.
But in the second-half, King, responded by replacing Jabari Brathwaite and Seon Thomas after the break with 2006 World Cup midfielder Densill Theobald and talented midfielder-turned-defender Keston George, respectively, and got a positive response.
Forward Rundell Winchester headed in a Theobald in the 69th minute corner for his tenth league to finish two shy of 2017 topscorer winner Neil Benjamin Jr of W Connection while winger Kishun Seecharan scored a brilliant goal three minutes later midway through the second half.
Elton John then tried from distance to level the scores while Seecharan saw another attempt brilliantly matched by goalkeeper Shemel Louison whose outstretched leg kept the ball from entering the back of the net and preserve his team’s slim lead until the end.
At Couva, Kerry Daniel scored in the 67th minute for Morvant Caledonia who finished sixth, an improvement for the former Caribbean champions after ending second from bottom in the previous three Pro League seasons.
Elsewhere, Police was ruthless against last season’s three-peat league champions Central FC and came away with a 7-2 in the first match at Couva, a confidence booster ahead of their T&T Football Federation FA Trophy final versus recent First Citizens Cup winner W Connection on December 17 while Pt Fortin Civic snared the biggest league win of the season with a 7-0 victory over cellar-placed MIC-IT St Ann’s Rangers at Mahaica Oval led by a beaver-trick from Jared Bennet.
When the FA final kicks off, W Connection will be chasing a fifth title having lifted the trophy in 1999, 2000, 2002 and 2013-14 while Police FC will be hunting a fourth crown after previous triumphs in 1975, 1990 and 1994.
Defence Force 0 vs Club Sando 0
Jabloteh 3 (Julio Noel 3rd, Sean Bonval 21st, Kadeem Hutchinson 32nd) vs North East Stars 2 (Rundell Winchester 69th, Kishun Seecharan 72nd)
Point Fortin Civic 7 (Jared Bennett 7th, 47th, 54th, 75th, Nathaniel Garcia 27th, 76th, Kevin Moodie 69th) vs St Ann’s Rangers 0
Police FC 7 (Shaquille Williams 20th, 58th, Dexter Alleyne 29th, 35th, Kurdell Brathwaite 5th, Keon Wilson 54th, Tirik John 90+1 Own-Goal) vs Central FC 2 (Jason Marcano 12th, Dexter Alleyne 56th Own-Goal)
Morvant Caledonia United 1 (Kerry Daniel 67th) vs W Connection 0