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Central FC on Friday night defeated Defence Force FC 4-2 on penalties following a gripping 2-2 contest which included extra time in the 2018 First Citizens Cup final at the Hasely Crawford Stadium to reunite with the trophy they won back-to-back in 2013 and 2014.

Discarded Trinidad and Tobago midfielder Keron Cummings scored two skilfully executed goals and displayed brilliant individual skill, most notably a nutmeg and scoop to evade two defenders midway through the second half of extra time, before T&T goalkeeper and eventual tournament MVP Marvin Phillip proved huge between the sticks on the deciding penalty kicks.

Phillip’s presence in goal saw two rising talents of T&T football, Dylon King and Reon Moore, fail to hit the back of the net on Defence Force’s second and third kick respectively, while Kerry Baptiste, Akim Armstrong and Cummings were on target for Central before Duane Muckette celebrated the winning kick.

Hashim Arcia and Brent Sam scored for Defence Force in the shootout while teammate and goalkeeper Sheldon Clarke made a save to deny Couva Sharks’ defender Taryk Sampson on the fourth, but even that wasn’t enough to avoid the three-time champions a second consecutive runners-up finish after losing to W Connection in last year’s final.

“They (Defence Force) thought they could have just showed up and beat us,” said Central FC coach Stern John afterwards. “[But] we came and we fought tooth and nail. All (our) boys worked their socks off and we won the game. At the end of the night we were the better team and we deserved the win.

“Football is not a game of talking. You have to walk the walk and talk the talk. You can’t just talk it, you have to play the football.”

John praised his players for showing character through the club’s financial difficulties and after the disappointment of failing to qualify out of the Caribbean Club Championship earlier this year for the Concacaf League.

Cummings fired Central in front 1-0 three minutes from the end of the first half, breaking the deadlock with a left-footed strike to find Clarke’s bottom right corner after collecting a squared Armstrong pass inside the box and shaking off two challengers.

But with champagne on ice, Defence Force stormed back in the second half with two quick goals just over the hour mark.

King beat a fully stretched Phillip from inside the box off a short Devorn Jorsling feed in the 64th minute to level Defence Force 1-1 with his fifth goal of the tournament to finish joint top scorer with teammate Sam and Police FC forward Kareem Freitas.

Two minutes later Jorsling led another goal celebration after bundling substitute Moore’s cross over the line to put the Marvin Gordon coached-Tetron Boys in front 2-1 and the crowded Port of Spain venue exploded once more on the backdrop of the rhythm section.

Jorsling was cheered off moments later after Gordon’s decision to replace the legs of the veteran and all-time Pro League top scorer with Dwight Quintero.

But Cummings, who had first sent his calling card on the half-hour mark with a free kick that flew inches wide of Clarke’s far top corner, levelled Central 2-2 with his second goal on the night a beauty of a volley from distance in the 84th minute, seconds after T&T national defender Curtis Gonzales had to make a dramatic clearance at the Defence Force goalmouth.

Cummings, ahead of the awards ceremony, said his display was to signal to T&T senior team coach Dennis Lawrence that he is fully fit and ready for a national recall.

“(…) knowing coming out and putting a good performance against this [Defence Force team], people [will] see that I am not [still] injured and I am working hard to get back on the national team,” added the 30-year-old midfielder, who was shot in the leg in December 2015 at the prime of his career and at a time he had interests from clubs in the United States.

“This (First Citizens Cup final) was the ideal game to come and work to try and get a good result and it happened.”

Cummings, who played for North East Stars and second-tier club Diego Martin/Petit Valley United before returning to Central this year, said he wants to build on his First Citizens Cup performance. He said his confidence will grow with more games.

Cummings also rocked the crossbar in the first minute of extra time before Phillip’s 109th-minute save to deny Moore was vital in sending the decider into kicks from the spot, which eventually favoured the Couva Sharks.

Phillip, one of the heroes of the final, had also made a diving save two minutes from the end to keep out a strike from King to deny Defence Force victory at the death of regular time in what will be remembered as one of the most exciting First Citizens Cup finals which had loads of giveaways including a TT$5,000 kick-for-cash, a flat screen television, a security camera system, and a closing performance from new artiste Sejoux Leo Star.

First Citizens Cup 2018 Final
Defence Force FC 2 (Dylon King 64’, Devorn Jorsling 66’) vs Central FC 2 (Keron Cummings 42’, 84’), at Hasely Crawford Stadium.
Central won 4-2 on kicks from the penalty mark

Central FC 4 Defence Force FC 2
Kerry Baptiste (scored) Hashim Harlim Arcia (scored)
Akim Armstrong (scored) Dylon King (missed)
Keron Cummings (scored) Reon Moore (hit the bar)
Taryk Sampson (saved) Brent Sam (scored)
Duane Muckette (scored)

Teams
Defence Force FC: 25. Sheldon Clarke (GK); 4. Dave Long (18. Reon Moore 17th minute), 5. Jerome Mc Intyre, 6. Rodell Elcock, 8. Brent Sam, 9. Devorn Jorsling (11. Dwight Quintero 76th minute), 10. Hashim Arcia, 17. Curtis Gonzales, 21. Aklie Edwards, 45. Dylon King, 99. Jerwyn Balthazar (Capt.)

Unused substitutes: 1. Andre Marchan (GK); 12. Jemel Sebro, 16. Kellon Serrette, 20. Levi Serries, 32. Jameel Cooper

Coach: Marvin Gordon

Central FC: 1. Marvin Phillip (GK); 5. Dwight Pope, 8. Akim Armstrong, 10. Keron Cummings, 12. Taryk Sampson, 13. Rhondel Gibson (29. Kerry Baptiste 68th minute), 15. Kaydion Gabriel, 19. Jared London (27. Anthony Charles 114th minute), 22. Jameel Neptune, 24. Duane Muckette (Capt.), 26. Dominic Douglas (7. Kirston Baird 58th minute)

Unused substitutes: 18. Densill Theobald

Coach: Stern John

Match Officials
Referee: Cecile Hinds
Assistant Referee 1: Caleb Wales
Assistant Referee 2: Kevin Lewis
Fourth Official: Nicholai Nyron
Referees’ Assessor: Boni Bishop
Match Commissioner: Natasha Hinkson


SOURCE: T&T Pro League Facebook Page

RELATED NEWS

Victorious coach Stern hungry for more silverware.
By Joel Bailey (Newsday).


VICTORIOUS coach of 2018 First Citizens Cup winners Central FC, Stern John, is hungry for more silverware in his new role on the sidelines. The legendary 40-year-old ex-national striker is the all-time leading T&T international scorer with 70 goals from 115 appearances.

John is in his first full season as Central FC coach, having replaced ex-national teammate Dale Saunders midway into the 2017 campaign. And he won his first title as coach on Friday at the Hasely Crawford Stadium in Mucurapo, as Central FC defeated Defence Force 4-2 via kicks from the penalty spot. The scores were locked at 2-2 at the end of 120 minutes of regulation and injury time.

“I’m feeling good,” said John. “I’m hungry for success. I want to do well.

“Hopefully I can continue my trade and apply (it) well because I’m passionate about (TT) football and getting (it) back where it’s supposed to be,” he added. “I’m one of the young coaches, I’m going to make mistakes along the way but that’s part of it. I’m willing to learn.”

Keron Cummings scored both goals for Central FC, in the 42nd and 83rd minutes. The goal-getters for Defence Force were Dylon King (64th) and Devorn Jorsling (65th).

John praised the mentality of the players, as they have been dealing with financial struggles for the past year. “The last couple of years we’ve always been able to field some of the best in Trinidad and Tobago,” he said. “With the financial problem we’re having now, we’re at a rebuilding stage. I think for the team, they’ve been working under real difficult conditions. We have to give the players a lot of credit.”

Central FC were only able to field 15 players with no back-up goalkeeper to Marvin Phillip.

“We have to grind it out,” John said. “If Marvin went down in the game, we would’ve been struggling. For what we had to work with and what we’ve done, I have to give credit to the boys.”

He added, “Army was talking about how 13 men can’t beat them. These boys showed resilience, they showed passion and I say they deserve this 100 per cent.”

Regular captain Densill Theobald was an unused sub and ex-national utility player Anthony Wolfe left for a contact in India.

According to John, “Theobald, give credit to him. He’s one of the older players around and he’s steadied the ship. He makes my job a lot easier. We have (youngsters) Rhondel (Gibson) and (Taryk) Sampson – they’re really hungry for success – and I’m willing to work with them.”