Central’s 100 percent run of form this season in the Digicel Pro League was snapped by Ma Pau Stars, who held the two-time defending champions to a goalless draw on Friday night in the second game of a double-header at the Mahaica Oval.
Central entered the game on a four-game league winning roll after wins over W Connection, Club Sando, Defence Force and Morvant Caledonia United, but failed to continue their hot streak against Ma Pau Stars – a team coached by their former coach Ross Russell.
The goalless result slowed the leaders, Central (13 points), while Couva rivals W Connection continued their upward thrust with a 2-0 win over Defence Force in the earlier game at the Point Fortin venue.
Andre Toussaint, one of three Point Fortin-born players used by Connection at Mahaica Oval on Friday night, fired the Savonetta Boys in front on 31 minutes following a quickly taken set-piece, before Suriname international forward Dimitrie Apai made it 2-0 in the 79th-minute after rounding goalkeeper Andre Marchan to complete a counter-attack with his second goal of the season.
Marvin Gordon, head coach of the ninth-positioned Defence Force (3 points), said afterwards that the score-line doesn’t reflect the performance of his side who were denied by the upright and had another attempt cleared off the line.
Meanwhile the 2-0 result, combined with Tuesday’s 7-0 win over Point Fortin Civic, served as a fitting tribute for former W Connection team administrator Raymond Mc Lean who passed away earlier this month.
It may also add some ease to Connection technical director/head coach Stuart Charles Fevrier, who, after attending the funeral service of his close friend, Mc Lean, last Saturday, had learnt of the passing of his father Patrick Newton Fevrier later the same day. Fevrier is expected to travel to his native St. Lucia for the funeral of his father.
Connection (10 points) leapfrogged San Juan Jabloteh (9 points)—who plays Police FC on Tuesday—for second spot while Ma Pau Stars continue to occupy fifth position but tied on seven points with fourth-placed St. Ann’s Rangers who plays Civic on Sunday when action returns to the Mahaica Oval.
Ace forward and hometown hero Marcus Joseph had a great chance to put Central ahead of the Stars in stoppage-time of the first half after Kevon Villaroal was upended in the area by Neil Gerard Mitchell.
“You know where he is going,” shouted coach Russell to his goalkeeper Glenroy Samuel as Joseph -- who has 3 goals from four previous league games this season including a penalty item -- prepared himself above the penalty spot.
“Well done son,” soon followed off the tongue of Russell, a two-time league winning coach with Defence Force who had a five-month stint with Central at the start of the 2015-2016 season, and knows a lot about goalkeeping being a former ‘keeper himself.
Samuel had picked right. The Stars’ goalie had dived low to his right to thwart his former Trinidad and Tobago 2007 and 2009 FIFA Youth World Cup team-mate’s left-footed strike from the spot.
“Yesterday in training we did some penalty kicks and he (Joseph) was good but today he came and passed the ball to the goalkeeper,” said Central FC head coach Dale Saunders as he rued his sides missed chances which included a wide header by Darren Mitchell and another strike from Joseph which swerved just wide of the top corner in the first half.
“Even in the second half we created some chances to bag some goals but didn’t,” continued Saunders, who had replaced Joseph just before the hour mark with Johan “Guti” Peltier.
“He (Joseph) was a little too relaxed… a bit lethargic,” the Central coach explained over his decision to replace the talented forward. “As a big striker you have to put away those goals. We have depth in our team [therefore] everyone deserves a chance.”
“Finish Guti!” shouted Saunders from the technical area in the 68th minute. But Peltier had lifted his attempt for a comfortable take by Samuel. “No! On the ground,” came the following instruction.
Peltier did laser another attempt on the ground ten minutes from time, but Samuel was equal to the test.
“Credit to them (Ma Pau Stars), they came with a plan and went away with a point,” conceded Saunders after the game. “We didn’t put away our chances today but once we haven’t lost, it’s good for us.”
Russell meanwhile said it was easier planning for Central because of his familiarity with most of the Couva Sharks’ players.
“Central have been unstoppable [in the league] since last year and a point for us (Ma Pau Stars) right now is good for our team because we are a rebuilding team while Central were playing at a higher level (at the Concacaf Champions League) and are unbeaten [domestically].
“We (Ma Pau Stars) are getting better as we go along. The players are now meshing together. Our point [earned] tonight is a great achievement for the team—we have ended the winning run of Central,” concluded Russell.
W Connection 2 (Andre Toussaint 31’, Dimitrie Apai 79’) vs Defence Force 0, at the Mahaica Oval;
Central FC 0 vs Ma Pau Stars 0, at the Mahaica Oval.
W Connection: 18.Julani Archibald (GK), 2.Kurt Frederick, 3.Gerard Williams (Capt.), 8.Briel Thomas (16.Alvin Jomes 24th minute), 10.Dimitrie Apai (9.Shackiel Henry 83rd minute), 11.Neil Benjamin Jr. (25.Daneil Cyrus 69th minute), 14.Andre Toussaint, 21.Ronell Paul, 23.Kevon Goddard (Yellow Card), 27.Jelani Peters, 37.Daniel Diaz.
Unused substitutes: 1.Terrence Lewis (GK), 20.Jamal Charles, 26.Shaquille Bertrand, 46.Anfernee Frederick.
Coach: Stuart Charles Fevrier
Defence Force: 1.Andre Marchan (GK), 3.Jamali Garcia, 8.Christopher Durity, 9.Devorn Jorsling (Yellow Card), 10.Hashim Arcia, 12.Jemel Sebro, 13.Marvin Jones (19.Thurlani George 85th minute), 17.Curtis Gonzales (Yellow Card), 21.Aklie Edwards (35.Tirek George 88th minute), 26.Justin Garcia (Yellow Card), 99.Jerwyn Balthazar (Capt.).
Unused substitutes: 25.Sheldon Clarke (GK), 2.Glynn Franklyn, 5.Devin Jordan, 15.Brandon Fountain, 22.Anthony Charles.
Coach: Marvin Gordon
Referee: Rashby Mc Phie
Central FC: 21.Jan-Michael Williams (GK), 3.Keion Goodridge, 4.Andre Ettienne, 6.Leston Paul, 7.Jason Marcano, 8.Sean De Silva (10.Keron Cummings 62nd minute), 11.Darren Mitchell (Capt.), 15.Kaydion Gabriel, 19.Nathan Garcia, 24.Kevon Villaroel (16.Kadeem Corbin 85th minute), 99.Marcus Joseph (17.Johan Peltier 59th minute).
Unused substitutes: 1.Javon Sample (GK), 26.Mickaeel Jem Gordon, 30.Akel Clarke (GK).
Coach: Dale Saunders
Ma Pau Stars: 22.Glenroy Samuel (GK), 2.Carlos Edwards (Capt.), 4.Kerry Baptiste (14.Chike Sullivan 90th minute), 6.Neil Gerard Mitchell (Yellow Card), 7.Kerry Daniel, 9.Jason Scotland (21.Neil Gibson Mitchell 71st minute), 10.Jerrel Britto, 16.Kareem Eastman, 17.Hayden Tinto, 19.Glenton Wolffe (Yellow Card), 25.Keryn Navarro.
Unused substitutes: 1.Shane Mattis (GK), 3.Hakim Baird, 8.Adrian Noel, 12.Sayid Freitas, 20.Quincy Charles.
Coach: Ross Russell
Referee: Keilon Bacchus