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Rajesh Latchoo got off to a winning start as Morvant Caledonia United’s head coach after he guided the “Eastern Stallions” to a 3-1 win at Point Fortin Civic on the opening night of the 2016/17 Digicel Pro League.

Jameel “Shooter” Neptune and new signing Jair Edwards—both from assists by returning attacker Kordell Samuel—and veteran Kareem Joseph each had a goal for the visitors at the Mahaica Oval, which, due to floodlights operation failure, forced match officials to abandon the first game of the double-header between Club Sando and last season’s runners-up San Juan Jabloteh four minutes into the second half.

However the lights—thanks to the arrival of a technician—were operational in time for the second game and it took Neptune just five minutes to give Caledonia a deserving 1-0 lead after meeting Samuel’s hard-worked right side cross to hit past a hapless goalkeeper Miles Goodman.

But Sylvester Teesdale pulled Civic level, 1-1, on the half hour mark when he converted from the penalty spot, beating his former Civic teammate, goalkeeper Marvin Phillip, after Akeem Redhead was sliced down in the box by Caledonia’s St. Lucian defender Otev Lawrence.

It was not until ten minutes inside the second half that Caledonia were back in front. Jair Edwards timed his jump perfectly to meet a cross from the left by Samuel to head past Goodman for a 2-1 lead while exposing Civic’s weakness in defence.

Edwards returned the favour in the 72th-minute but the 31-year-old well-travelled Samuel headed overbar. Samuel had represented North East Stars, Joe Public and Caledonia during 2005 to 2011 before plying his skill in the United States (Brooklyn Italians), Malaysia (Royal Malaysia Police Association FC), Thailand (Nakhonpathom United) and El Salvador (Pasaquina FC and Chalatenango).

Kareem Joseph, however, had extended Caledonia’s lead to 3-1 in the 66th-minute with a superb free kick when he guided the ball over the wall and into Goodman’s top corner from 22 yards out.

“I’m happy to start with a win,” said Latchoo after Caledonia’s win. “And I thank the players for that. Our players did what they had to do in the second half.”

Latchoo—the youngest head coach in the league at 33—who replaced longstanding coach Jerry Moe this season, continued, “I felt the first half wasn’t our best showing because our guys are better than [what we saw]. The score could have been better had things continue going to plan and not giving them (Civic) the fire they got when we gave them the penalty. But we took control in the second half and showed that we can play. We still have some things to tweak in our build-up and as our players go on, they will get a little more confident because we have some youngsters in the squad.”

Latchoo, who will next lead his side into action against St. Ann’s Rangers on Oct. 9, said he expects improvement from as early as his next training session.

Meanwhile new Point Fortin Civic coach Dick Furlonge believes his youthful side gave a good effort despite the result, but promised improvement.

“As we (Civic) move on you will see improvement in the team,” said the former Trinidad and Tobago international and Holland-based player during the late 60’s and early 70’s. “We have a young team. A lot of them are inexperienced [at this level]. We had opportunities to go ahead with the game but didn’t convert and that is what the game is about… if you throw away it will come back to haunt you. But I think the guys tried well and we will go from strength to strength.”

Kehinde Olakunie had an excellent opportunity to put Civic ahead in the 54th-minute after he was sent through one-on-one with goalkeeper Phillip, but the Nigerian-born forward was denied by the Trinidad and Tobago international at the near post.

Redhead also had attempt tamed by Phillip midway through the second half and in stoppage-time substitute Tereek Joseph failed to make contact to a Teesdale cross which flashed across Caledonia’s six-yard area.

Earlier, Jabloteh had led Club Sando 1-0 by the 14th-minute after teenaged left-back signing Keston Julien smashed a half volley into the back of goalkeeper Stefan Berkeley’s net. Brent Sam had beaten the Sando defence to a Tyrone Charles’ corner and the ball fell in favour of Julien just inside the area.

Jamaican defender Adrian Reid preserved Jabloteh’s lead before the break with a clearance off the line after goalkeeper Shemel Louison was beaten by an improvised lifted attempt by Jared London.

Jabloteh were back at it three minutes inside the second half when Keyon Edwards was denied by the upright. But soon afterwards the floodlights failed to operate and later plunged players and fans into darkness.

Digicel Pro League 2016/17
Round One Match Day One
Friday September 30, 2016
Point Fortin Civic 1 (Sylvester Teesdale 31’ penalty) vs Morvant Caledonia United 3 (Jameel Neptune 5’, Jair Edwards 55’, Kareem Joseph 66’)

Club Sando 0 vs San Juan Jabloteh 1 (Keston Julien 14’)
(Game called off after 48 minutes due to flood lighting problems)

Upcoming matches
Round One Match Day One
Sunday October 02
Larry Gomes Stadium, Malabar
Defence Force vs St. Ann’s Rangers—3:15pm

Tuesday October 04
Hasely Crawford Stadium, Port-of-Spain
Ma Pau Stars (formerly North East Stars) vs Police FC—6pm
Central FC vs W Connection—8pm

Teams at the Mahaica Oval on Friday
Game One
Club Sando: 1.Stefan Berkeley (GK), 5.Nical Stephens, 6.Kemuel Rivers, 7.Akeem Humphrey, 8.Kevon Piper, 9.Keron Cornwall, 13.Akeem Roach, 17.Jared London, 18.Trevin Latapy, 19.Leslie Russell, 29.Keithy Simpson

Unused substitutes: 12.Michael Basdeo, 14.Anthony Guppy, 16.Anderson Toussaint, 21.Sharkeel Donatien, 23.Nicolas Thomas, 27.Jayson Joseph, 34.Kelvin Henry

Coach: Angus Eve

San Juan Jabloteh: 30: Shemel Lousion (GK), 4.Keston Julien, 6.Akeem Benjamin, 8.Keyon Edwards, 9.Willis Plaza, 10.Tyrone Charles, 11.Damian Williams, 12.Kion Joseph, 16.Brent Sam, 21.Aquil Selby, 24.Adrian Reid

Unused substitutes: 35.Andrew Durant (GK), 7.Jamal Gay, 17.Josiah Trimmingham, 18.Jevon Morris, 19.Noel Williams, 23.Kennedy Hinkson

Coach: Keith Jeffrey

Match Referee: Kelon Bacchus

Game Two
Point Fortin Civic: 22.Miles Goodman (GK), 2.Ancil Wells, 3.Kurfi Pierre (23.Shaquille Stewart 74th minute), 6.Shane Garraway, 8.Akeem Redhead, 9.Sylvester Teesdale, 12.Rondell Phillip, 13.Shevon Abraham, 14.Nicarlon Turton, 17.Kestwin Goolie (4.Keron Neptune 77th minute), 19.Kehinde Olakunie (16.Tareek Joseph 74th minute)

Unused substitutes: 11.Shaquille Dublin, 16.Tyrell Johnson, 24.Austin Hernandez, 21.Callum Marshall (GK)

Coach: Dick Furlonge

Morvant Caledonia United: 1.Marvin Phillip (GK), 5.Seon Thomas, 6.Taje Commissiong (16.Amos Ramsay 72nd minute), 7.Kordell Samuel (14.Keron Bethelmy 83rd minute), 9.Jair Edwards (13.Jordan Devonish 80th minute), 12.Kareem Joseph, 15.Otev Lawrence, 17.Akim Armstrong, 18.Maestro Mensah, 21.Densill Theobald, 22.Jameel Neptune

Unused substitutes: 2.Kevin Layne, 8.Anthony Charles, 11.Dominic Douglas, 30.Stephon Seepersad (GK)

Coach: Rajesh Latchoo

Match Referee: Cecile Hinds