W Connection are hoping to defeat Central FC for a second time in four days when the Couva rivals clash in semi-final two of the 2016 Lucozade Sport Goal Shield (LSGS) from 8pm on Friday at the Ato Boldon Stadium.
Police FC and former LSGS champions Morvant Caledonia United will kick-off the semi-final round from 6pm at the Couva venue, and like title holders Central FC and two-time former champions W Connection, they too are targeting a place in the final on Sunday April 24 at the Hasely Crawford Stadium.
While games are usually close between the Couva rivals, the Stuart Charles-Fevrier-coached Connection have defeated Central in two previous knockout meetings – dethroning Central 2-1 in the final of the First Citizens Cup then 6-5 in a penalty shootout following a 2-2 draw in the semi-finals of the Toyota Classic en route to lifting the crown – this season, and Tuesday’s 1-0 league win over the “Couva Sharks” thanks to a late solitary goal from captain Hughtun Hector should be boost in confidence.
It also saw Connection jump to second on the Digicel Pro League 2015/16 standings, three points behind leaders and defending DPL champions Central, who have a game in hand with four regular league games left this season.
However Hector, a Trinidad and Tobago international and former Vietnam-based midfielder, believes his players, who defeated North East Stars 4-1 in the quarter-finals, will have to work even harder Friday.
“Although Tuesday’s league win against Central is a big boost for our confidence, we have to remain cool,” said the 31-year-old Hector. “Tuesday’s game is gone. It’s an entirely new game on Friday and Central will be coming even harder against us. We must work even harder to come away with a win. It’s important to get a win because that puts us through to the final.”
Hector said the “Savonetta Boys” wants to go all the way to lift LSGS title, securing a third major crown this season, while continuing their winning ways all the way to the final round of Caribbean qualifying towards the Concacaf Champions League 2016/17 season.
Connection must tackle Jamaica’s Arnett Gardens in the semi-final round of the Caribbean Club Championship (CCC) 2016 on April 29, hosted in Haiti, while holders Central FC are against hosts Don Bosco, for a second consecutive semi-final clash against the Haitians.
The two CCC semi-final round winners and third place winners will secure the three Caribbean berths at the Concacaf Champions League 2016/17 season. The 2016 final and third place play-off will be contested on May 1.
Last season Central, on CCC debut, progressed all the way to the final where they defeated multiple-time former champions Connection in the final.
The Caribbean crown was one of four major titles – the others the DPL, First Citizens Cup and Digicel Pro Bowl – captured last season by Central. But the “Couva Sharks” are yet to hold bite on a major title this season and have only defeated Connection once – 1-0 in the season-opener Digicel Charity Shield – in six meetings this season with two ending in draws.
“We still have a lot to play for,” said Central coach Dale Saunders, who served as assistant coach last season but was promoted to the top post last December.
“We are three points ahead in the league with a game in hand and I think we will get the job done. We also have cups (Lucozade Sport Goal Shield, Caribbean Club Championship & Digicel Pro Bowl) to play for still and on Friday we will give it our best shot [against Connection in the semi-finals of the LSGS].
“They (Connection) are a great team,” added Saunders, whose side needed penalties to dispatch St. Ann’s Rangers 3-1 following a 1-1 draw in the quarter-finals. “But we will throw everything at Connection. I have full confidence in my players to get the job done. We didn’t perform badly against them in the league on Tuesday. We had an early chance to put away but muffed it. This is football, especially in tight games like the Central-W Connection Clasico, it will end up hard for you when you throw away a chance like we got early. Then unfortunately we conceded in the 89th minute.”
Like Central, LSGS semi-final one opponents, Police and Caledonia, were also on the losing end in their league outings on Tuesday, defeated 3-2 and 1-0 against San Juan Jabloteh and St. Ann’s Rangers respectively, however their ambitions to lift the 2016 LSGS crown is unbroken
“Our ambition is to win the [Lucozade Sport] Goal Shield,” said Police FC head coach Richard Hood, who led his side to a 3-0 win over Jabloteh in the quarter-finals. “We are going to go all out to achieve that ambition. We’ve been having a good run of late with good performances and Tuesday’s loss in the league will have to bearing on Friday’s game [against Caledonia].”
Police have defeated Caledonia in all of their three league meetings this season – 2-1, 5-0 and 2-1 – and are looking to keep their one hundred percent record against the “Eastern Stallions” on Friday.
“At the launch of the tournament [Caledonia coach] Jerry Moe said ‘Caledonia are a different team at the moment’,” Hood reminded. He said with Caledonia defeating Point Fortin Civic 3-1 in the qualifying round then hammering Defence Force 5-1 in the quarter-finals “suggests that Caledonia are indeed a indeed a different team.”
“I looked over their game (against Army) and they played well, but they really exploited a lot of space that Army gave them. We have defeated them all season and while it’s a new game against us on Friday, I am confident it will be a good clash but I am also confident we can beat them [again],” ended the Police coach.
Meanwhile Moe expects a close game against the “Lawmen” but says Caledonia are united to try and rescue their miserable season, in which they occupy eight position on the league standings only four points ahead of cellar-positioned Rangers following a number of poor results.
“We are focused as we are from the begging of the [LSGS] tournament when I said we want to win the title,” said the Caledonia coach.
“Everyone is on the same page in wanting to do well for the club in the two remaining cups (LSGS & Pro Bowl). We were the laughing stock this season and a number of the players took it personal.
“It wasn’t that we were playing badly. It was just disappointing in terms of results and not scoring our chances. If you don’t score then it makes it difficult. But we have shown in this [LSGS] tournament how much we have improved, scoring eight goals in the two games we played.”
Moe credited his senior players for the way the team have “stepped up” in the way they train and play now in the “Caledonia style”. He said Police have only “slaughtered” his side once this season while the other two meetings were close, and once his players guard themselves against the counterattacks and do well on the one-on-one situations, a place in the LSGS final on April 24 awaits his side.
Lucozade Sport Goal Shield 2016
Friday April 15
Ato Boldon Stadium
Police FC vs Morvant Caledonia United—6pm
Central FC vs W Connection—8pm
Sunday April 24
Hasely Crawford Stadium
Quarterfinal Round results
Friday April 8
Ato Boldon Stadium
Central FC 1 (Rundell Winchester 29') vs St. Ann’s Rangers 1 (Keron Cornwall 20')
Central won the game 3-1 on penalties
St. Ann’s Rangers 1 Central FC 3
Johan Peltier (overbar) Jason Marcano (scored)
Kevon Piper (saved) Elijah Manners (crossbar)
Jameel Antoine (scored) Rundell Winchester (scored)
Keron Cornwall (overbar) Leston Paul (scored)
W Connection 4 (Shahdon Winchester 10', Jelani Peters 58', Andre Toussaint 63', Neil Benjamin 87') vs North East Stars 1 (Kerry Baptiste 48')
Saturday April 9
Hasely Crawford Stadium
Defence Force 1 (Devorn Jorsling 42' penalty) vs Morvant Caledonia United 5 (Jameel Neptune 33', 73', Ordell Flemming 45'+1, Pernell Schultz 68', Sheldon Holder 78')
San Juan Jabloteh 0 vs Police FC 3 (Dexter Alleyne 4', Makesi Lewis 43', Jameel Perry 55')
Qualifying Round results
Tuesday April 5
Ato Boldon Stadium
Morvant Caledonia United 3 (Robert Primus 41’, Kareem Joseph 71’, Jameel Neptune 78’) vs Point Fortin Civic 1 (Kelvin Modeste 72’)
Club Sando 0 vs St. Ann’s Rangers 1 (Johan Peltier 86’)