Three-time former winners Central FC joined Couva rivals W Connection on 30 points at the top of the Pro League 2018 standings after a hard-fought 4-2 win over ninth-positioned Terminix St. Ann’s Rangers in the first game of a Super Friday double-header at Hasely Crawford Stadium.
Morvant Caledonia United later jumped two spots to occupy third, intensifying the race for a CONCACAF qualifying spot – a top-two domestic finish – three points adrift of the front two, with a 3-2 win over cross-town rivals San Juan Jabloteh thanks to a hat-trick from Quincy Ballah at the Mucurapo Road venue.
But the “Eastern Stallions”, though undefeated in their last eight outings, are tied on 27 points with Police FC, a side with a chance to take their tally to 30 points on Sunday when they clash with cellar-placed North East Stars from 3pm at Larry Gomes Stadium.
Akim Armstrong, Jamaican Ewan Grandison, Leston Paul and Duane Muckette all hit the back of the net for Central on a night Rangers had a goal each from Kerry Baptiste and Taje Commissiong, two penalty shouts, a shot off the bar among a number of created chances.
The Central win puts Connection, a side once boasting a seven-point lead, under increased pressure to end a five-game winless rot against Point Fortin Civic from 6pm on Sunday at Ato Boldon Stadium ahead of their last two games against San Juan Jabloteh and North East Stars.
Connection maintains lead by a superior +23 goal difference, eight more than Central, the Stern John-coached side that must face Defence Force FC and Police in their last two games.
Armstrong converted from the spot, hitting past the outstretched frame of Jabari St. Hillaire for his 12th league goal of the season to occupy second with Police FC’s Kareem Freitas in the race for the Golden Boot behind in-form Club Sando winger Tyrone Charles (13 goals), to put the “Couva Sharks” in front on 22 minutes after Leston Paul was bundled over in the area by Xae-Pierre Defou.
Grandison then made it 2-0 on the half hour after a strong run forward and link up with Paul to hit past Hillare.
Kerry Baptiste sliced the Rangers deficit three minutes later with a solid finish past Marvin Phillip but the veteran striker flared up an earlier injury in the process and had to be replaced soon afterwards.
It was not until the 75th minute that Paul, a two-time former Trinidad and Tobago youth World Cup captain, restored Central’s two-goal lead 3-1 following a solo effort.
But once more Rangers trimmed the lead with Taje Commissiong smashing a left footer past Phillip two minutes later to show teammate Chadley David how to find the back of the net after setting up the defender-cum-midfielder for a simple finish moments earlier. David had failed to connection to the left-back’s low feed at the back post.
Kishon Hackshaw, who was denied by the bar and Phillip in the first half, struck overbar on a wonderful chance a minute into the second half as Rangers were left to rue missed chances.
Muckette was also denied by the bar, but the Central attacker redeemed himself by rounding St. Hillaire to complete the 4-2 win a minute from time after latching onto a deep feed into the Rangers area.
Later, it took the Jerry Moe-coached Morvant Caledonia just one minute to take the lead against Jabloteh when eventual hat-trick hero Ballah turned in rebound from close up after goalkeeper Christopher Biggette kept out an attempt from Keron Cummings.
Ballah pounced again on 18 minutes, lashing in a penalty rebound to cushion Morvant Caledonia 2-0 after Biggette had matched Kerry Daniel’s effort from the spot. The diminutive attacker completed his first professional hat-trick by the 67th minute to restore the “Eastern Stallions”’ two-goal cushion after Jabloteh substitute Nickel Orr, just three minutes onto the pitch, celebrated his first top-flight goal on his first touch in the 62nd minute.
Another substitute Darren “Chucky” Mitchell struck again for Jabloteh in stoppage-time with a powerfully struck effort to beat Terrence Lewis at his first post to make it 2-3, but it wasn’t enough to avoid the “San Juan Kings” a fifth loss from their last six outings.
Club Sando and Defence Force, two sides on 24 points, could climb above Morvant Caledonia when they face each other from 4pm on Sunday in the first game of the double-header at the Ato Boldon Stadium.
Pro League 2018
Round Two Match Day Seven results
(Friday 23 November)
Central FC 4 (Akim Armstrong 22’, Ewan Grandison 30’, Leston Paul 75’, Duane Muckette 89’) vs Terminix St. Ann’s Rangers 2 (Kerry Baptiste 33’, Taje Commissiong 77’), at Hasely Crawford Stadium;
San Juan Jabloteh 2 (Nickel Orr 62’, Darren Mitchell 90’+2) vs Morvant Caledonia United 3 (Quincy Ballah 1’, 18’, 67’), at Hasely Crawford Stadium.
Round Two Match Day Seven
(Sunday 25 November)
Club Sando vs Defence Force FC, 4pm at Ato Boldon Stadium;
W Connection vs Point Fortin Civic, 6pm at Ato Boldon Stadium;
North East Stars vs Police FC, 3pm at Larry Gomes Stadium.
Round Two Match Day Eight
(Dates, venues and times to be confirmed)
Club Sando vs Terminix St. Ann’s Rangers
Morvant Caledonia United vs Police FC
San Juan Jabloteh vs W Connection
Central FC vs Defence Force FC
North East Stars vs Point Fortin Civic
Round Two Match Day Nine
(Dates, venues and times to be confirmed)
W Connection vs North East Stars
Point Fortin Civic vs Defence Force FC
Morvant Caledonia United vs Club Sando
Central FC vs Police FC
San Juan Jabloteh vs Terminix St. Ann’s Rangers
Pro League 2018 standings
# Team MP W D L GF GA GD Pts
1 W Connection 15 8 6 1 30 7 23 30
2 Central FC 16 9 3 4 39 24 15 30
3 Morvant Caledonia Utd 16 7 6 3 32 20 12 27
4 Police FC 15 8 3 4 30 18 12 27
5 Defence Force FC 14 7 3 4 31 16 15 24
6 Club Sando 14 7 3 4 29 21 8 24
7 San Juan Jabloteh 16 7 2 7 23 23 0 23
8 Point Fortin Civic 15 2 2 11 16 35 -19 8
9 Terminix St. Ann’s Rangers 15 2 1 12 10 54 -44 7
10 North East Stars 12 1 3 8 11 33 -22 6
Teams at the Hasely Crawford Stadium on Friday
Central FC: 1.Marvin Phillip (GK); 3.Ewan Grandison, 7.Hakim Baird, 8.Akim Armstrong, 10.Leston Paul, 12.Taryk Sampson, 13.Rhondel Gibson, 18.Densill Theobald (Capt.), 19.Jared London, 24.Duane Muckette, 29.Russel Alfred (11.Xavier Rajpaul 83rd minute).
Unused substitutes: 30.Zane Coker (GK); 5.Dwight Pope, 9.Tyrik John, 23.Andell Brown, 41.Renaldo Alexander.
Coach: Stern John
Terminix St. Ann’s Rangers: 22.Jabari St. Hillaire (GK); 52.Chadley David (55.Alexis Blackwell 73rd minute), 54.Frederick Commissiong, 56.Taje Commissiong, 66.Kerry Baptiste (Capt.) (73.Jeankeon Alexander 37th minute), 67.Anthony Charles, 69.Keyon Edwards, 70.Nicholai Orr (64.Dominic Douglas 68th minute), 71.Kishon Hackshaw, 77.Shaquille Thomas, 78.Xae-Pierre Defou.
Unused substitutes: 4.Lukman Brooks, 58.Cedric Commissiong, 59.Shaquille John, 72.Anthony Kallicharan.
Coach: Dave “Hog Head” Quamina
Referee: Nicholai Nyron
Assistant Referee 1: Caleb Wales
Assistant Referee 2:
Fourth Official: Keilon Bacchus
Match Commissioner: Marcia Williams
San Juan Jabloteh: 1.Christopher Biggette (GK); 4.Nical Stephens (11.Darren Mitchell 59th minute), 5.Kevon Villaroel, 8.Jason Marcano, 10.Jomoul Francois (25.Nickel Orr 59th minute), 12.Keron Bethelmy, 17.Sean Bonval, 18.Jevon Morris, 20.Elton John (Capt.), 21.Jamal Creighton, 26.Akeem Benjamin (Josiah Baird 71st minute).
Unused substitutes: 30.Shemel Louison (GK); 15.Dillon Jagessar, 23.Jodel Brown, 24.Kareem Eastman,
Coach: Keith Jeffrey
Morvant Caledonia United: 1.Terrence Lewis (GK); 6.Keion Goodridge, 8.Ross Russell Jr., 9.Sedale Mc Lean, 11.Quincy Ballah, 14.Melvin Doxilly, 15.Malik Mieres (24.Osei Charles 84th minute), 17.Kerry Daniel, 19.Renaldo Francois (5.Joshua Sylvester 59th minute), 20.Keron Cummings, 29.Aikim Andrews (25.Joshua Martin 82nd minute).
Unused substitutes: 10.Sheldon Holder, 13.Saydrel Lewis, 21.Shem Clauzel.
Coach: Jerry Moe
Referee: Kwinsi Williams
Assistant Referee 1: Ainsley Rochard
Assistant Referee 2: Keron Myers
Fourth Official: CJ O’Brien
Match Commissioner: Frank Rodriguez