Fri, Sep

Army target Caribbean Cup following Premier League double.

DEFENCE Force coach Hutson Charles said despite completing the double in the TT Premier Football League (TTPFL) there is still room for improvement including defensively and being more clinical in front of goal.

Defence Force clinched the TTPFL Knock-out title with a 5-3 win in extra time over Terminix La Horquetta Rangers in the final played at the Diego Martin Sporting Complex on Saturday night.

Charles was an elated man when he spoke to Newsday on Sunday. “Very satisfied. We set out a goal and we achieved it so right now I am very relaxed,” Charles said.

Despite the titles this season, Charles said there is room to grow.

“First of all before the next (local) season we have the Caribbean Cup (in August), so we still need to improve our fitness, we still need to improve defensive wise and we still have to put away our chances...we get a lot of opportunities, but we still have to make them count. I think once we do that we are going to be okay.”

A hat-trick from Brent Sam and a goal each from Kaihim Thomas and man of the match Reon Moore saw off Rangers, who started well with the opening goal from in-form striker Tyrone Charles in the 15th minute.

In muddy conditions, Defence Force equalised nine minutes later as Moore placed a neat through-ball to a surging Thomas who made no mistake to beat Rangers custodian Jabari Brice. Moore continued to pester the Rangers’ defence and earned a penalty in the 32nd minute. However, Sam’s shot sent Price the wrong way but the ball deflected off the left post and out.

The score remained level at the half but Defence Force came right back into it eight minutes in, as Sam slotted home from close range and then headed past Price, courtesy of a Jelani Felix cross, to make it 3-1 in the 58th minute.

The army’s two-goal cushion was soon cut in half as Tyrone Charles’ smart free-kick ricocheted off the bar and into the path of Ross Russell Jr, who scored past Defence Force goalie Christopher Bigette in the 68th.

Moore, Thomas and Sam continued to keep the Rangers backline busy and should have regained Defence Force’s two-goal lead before the final whistle. But five minutes from regulation time, Rangers won a penalty courtesy of a Jules Lee handball, to which Charles rifled home to level the contest at 3-3.

Into the first period of extra time, Moore continued to cause problems up front and chipped the ball onto the crossbar which fell to Sam’s feet, for his first Cup hat-trick.

Sam’s goal sent them 4-3 up and reignited Defence Force. Rangers though, began to press harder looking for another possible equaliser. But it was not to be, as Moore, who played provider for the entire game, shared a nice one-two with Thomas in the final minute (120’) of extra time to get on the scoresheet and affirm Cup victory. For his valiant efforts, Moore was adjudged man of the match. After the match, Moore, in an interview with SportsMax said he believes the team can succeed at the Concacaf Caribbean Cup. “We have a good programme set in place for the boys, so once we listen to everything the coaches have on board for us I think we are going to do good.” Moore and Sam were the standout players for Defence Force scoring or assisting on all the goals.

“I think they really stepped up big time,” Charles said. “You could see that they really wanted it. They put their team on their back and carried the team. Their performance was tremendous, I could not ask for nothing more.”

Charles knew his players had the stamina to play 120 minutes.

“I told them just keep focused and keep the concentration going because I always felt that if we had to go into extra time we probably would have prevailed because we know that they have some older legs in the back, so I just told them be patient and go at them.”

The win for Defence Force saw them cap off the nation’s first season of domestic pro football, post-pandemic, with two titles; league and knockout cup.