Soca Warriors coach Russell Latapy made his Digicel Pro League debut as Caledonia AIA of Morvant/Laventille edged W Connection 2-1 at the Ato Boldon Stadium, Couva, yesterday.
The 40-year-old Latapy, who last played locally for the now defunct Trintoc back in 1988, played for 78 minutes before being replaced by youngster Akim Armstrong with his team 2-1 ahead and a hand in both goals. He even had an effort ricochet off the cross-bar in the first-half. Jameel Perry put Caledonia ahead after only seven minutes but Andre Toussaint replied for W Connection in the 25th minute.
The deciding moment in the match came in the 51st minute when national midfielder, Keon Daniel fired in the winner for Caledonia, third on the table with 22 points, two adrift of new leaders, bmobile Joe Public and one behind two-time defending champions, Clico San Juan Jabloteh. W Connection remained fourth with 18 points. On Tuesday night, national midfielder Kerry Baptiste achieved a remarkable individual feat as he carried his season tally to 18 goals in 11 matches when he netted all five goals to lead Joe Public to an entertaining 5-3 win over St Ann’s Rangers in the feature match of a double at the Marvin Lee Stadium, Macoya.
In the first match, Defence Force squandered a number of goal scoring chances in a 0-0 draw with the underachieving United Petrotrin. At Macoya, after a quiet first ten minutes, Baptiste broke the deadlock in the 13th minute when he latched onto a pass from midfielder Devon Leacock and fired past Rangers goalkeeper Frotunato Valcourt from close range. Rangers’ Josimar Belgrave was then gifted a chance to get his team level when a misguided headed clearance by Seon Power fell straight to his feet, but with goalkeeper Alejandro Figueroa off his line, he lifted his effort high over bar.
Errol Mc Farlane then wasted another chance for Rangers while at the other end of the field, Power failed to double his team’s lead when he headed overbar from less than six yards out. Five minutes before the interval though, Belgrave redeemed himself when he rose unchallenged in the six-yard box and planted a downward header from a Husani Thomas free-kick past the dive of Figueroa to draw his team level. That joy was shortlived though as within seconds of the restart, Baptiste connected with a pass from national teammate Hayden Tinto to beat goalkeeper Valcourt with clinical left footed finish.
Baptiste was not done yet and on the stroke of half-time he converted a penalty kick for a 3-1 cushion after winger Micah Lewis was brought down inside the area by Valcourt, who was lucky only to pick up a yellow card from referee Ishmael Mohammed. The spectators hardly had time to get into their seats at Macoya for the start of the second half when Rangers Christon Thomas angled a shot across goal that whistled past Figueroa into the far corner for a 3-2 deficit in the 48th minute.
The match was now closer than expected for the liking of Joe Public coach who then introduced new signing, Japan’s Yu Hoshide to the loud cheers of the crowd for Akeil Guevara in the 76th minute. The Asian player almost made an immediate impact as he provided two chances for Mc Kinght to extend his team’s lead, but the striker wasted both. But Baptiste was up to the task and in the 78th minute he finished off a play started by Hoshide with a clever finish off the far post past the advancing Valcourt to extend his team’s lead to 4-2.
However, Rangers were not ready to give up and responded in stunning fashion when a 35-yard free kick from defender Coneal Thomas beat the desperate lunge of Figueroa for a 4-3 score with seven minutes left. Two minutes from the end though, Baptiste made certain of full points and the Pro League table lead for the “Eastern Lions” when he reacted first to a save by Valcourt off a Mc Knight attempt which was set up by Yu Hoshide.
Shabazz lauds Latas’ Caledonia debut.
T&T Guardian Reports.
Caledonia AIA of Morvant/Levntille technical director Jamaal Shabazz praised the return of the national coach, 40-year-old Russell Latapy to local football after his long career abroad. Latapy, who last played locally for Trintoc made his first appearance for a local club in over 20 years when he played 78 minutes in Caledonia’s 2-1 win over W Connection in the Digicel Pro League at the Ato Boldon Stadium, Couva, on Wednesday.
Since leaving T&T in 1989 to play abroad, Latapy, capped 79 times by his country’s national team has plied his trade with Jamaican club, Port Morant United (1989-1990), Académica de Coimbra (1990-1994), Porto (1994-1996), Boavista (1996-1998), Hibernian (1998-2001), Glasgow Rangers (2001-2003), Dundee United (2003-2003) and Falkirk FC (2003-2008). However, earlier this year he returned home earlier after quitting international club football and following his relocation to T&T, Latapy was appointed coach of the T&T squad on April 8.
During that period he had hinted his willingness to represent his former childhood club and on Wednesday he fulfilled that promised.
Commenting on Latapy’s debut for Caledonia and his participation in the Pro League, Shabazz said, “Latapy’s play in the league is more of a benefit to the league and the country as a whole that to our club alone because when great players like him could grace the field locally it excites the population.
Shabazz who expressed hope that other players like Dennis Lawrence, Dwight Yorke and Marvin Andrews also return home to finish their careers at home applauded Latapy’s enthusiasm. “He (Latapy) could have easily just shoulder the pressures of coaching the national team, but he said to me that he will be better able to pass on some of his knowledge in the game by playing alongside the players than from on the sideline.”