Sat, Jul


It was a game that had everything, yet sadly it could only be seen in Haiti.

The 2016 CFU Caribbean Club Championship final saw a repeat of last seasons Couva Classic final, this time held at the rainswept Stade Sylvio Cator Stadium in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.

The two Pro League rivals fought an epic battle in front of several thousand local spectators, and although the game was carried live on Haitian TV, no online stream was available.

This left both teams supporters glued to Facebook for updates relayed via text message.

The game began in nearly monsoon like conditions on the artificial turf of Haiti's national stadium. Central had not recorded a domestic victory over Connection since the first game of the season back in September when they lifted the Charity Shield.

Since then, Connection disappointed The Sharks in three league matches and bashed them 4-2 in the Lucozade Goal Shield semi final two weeks ago.

But it was Central who took the lead inside 10 minutes when Marcus Joseph converted from a corner.

Things became a lot tougher for the Savonetta Boys when Shahdon Winchester was judged to have elbowed Central defender Keion Goodridge and was awarded a straight red card. This was a bitter blow for Connection as Winchester was a potent force, having scored the second goal on Friday that killed off Jamaica's Arnett Gardens in the semi final.

Yet being reduced to 10 men in the first half only seemed to make Connection more determined and within minutes they were awarded a penalty. Up stepped Alvin Jones, Connection's talisman dead ball expert, to face young goalkeeper, Javon Sample. It looked like a David & Goliath situation. It was Jones who launched Connection into the lead with a second minute free kick in Fridays semi final.

Sample, who only turned 21 ten days ago started the tournament as Centrals third choice keeper despite captaining T&T's U20 team.

First choice keeper, Jan-Michael Williams injured his shoulder in the group match vs Montego Bay in Jamaica in March and will not play again this season. Reserve keeper, Akel Clarke, a Guyanese national team goalkeeper had stepped up admirably to replace T&T's first choice custodian, but he suffered a knee ligament injury in Fridays semi final vs hosts Don Bosco.

Sample, who has been with Central since the clubs first season in 2012, jumped into the high pressure game and won the match for The Sharks with two saves in the penalty shoot out.

And it seemed that Sample maintained his composure under pressure again as he saved Alvin Jones effort.

The score remained 1-0 at half time, but there was the feeling that there was plenty more excitement to come.

Central were hunting for a second goal to put the game out of reach. Speedy midfielder Darren Mitchell missed a golden opportunity and fellow Tobagonian Jamal Jack had a decent shout for a penalty turned down by the ref.

In last years CFU final, Connection ended the game against Central with 9 men. And so it was this year as Alvin Jones' two footed tackle was penalised with a second yellow card.

The two man disadvantage for Connection left them vulnerable as they chased an equaliser and it was Central's maverick striker, Jason Marcano who reaped the reward. Marcano has found the net regularly all season, including a league hat trick last week against Club Sando.

While Connection fought bravely they couldn't overcome the Central midfield lead by the outstanding Leston Paul, the games eventual MVP.

This was the first ever “Couva Classic” played overseas, yet Central, however, did not feel at all charitable to their close neighbours and on the stroke of full time, Darren “Chucky” Mitchell hit home to end the game 3-0.

Central, fielding a team comprised entirely of Trinbagonians, lifted the Caribbeans top club trophy for a second year running. The only other team to achieve this was Puerto Rico Islanders who were allowed into the tournament even though they played their league football in the USA.

It was a testament to the strength of the TT Pro League that, yet again, two teams from T&T made it to the final. Eleven of the sixteen CFU finals have now been won by clubs from Trinidad & Tobago, and there have been 10 T&T runners up. Jamaican clubs have won the trophy 3 times and been runners up twice.

Perhaps more importantly, both T&T clubs qualify for the 2016 CONCACAF Champions League which has been restructured into groups of four for the qualifying rounds. While T&T can proudly boast of their domination in the Caribbean, the test will now be to escape from the group stages of the Champions League and challenge Central and North American giants on the big stage.