SOCCER Made Simple (SMS) retain NLCL crown in thrilling Championship battle.
Defending champions of the Next Level Consulting Limited (NLCL) Under-19 Community Cup, Soccer Made Simple, kept their grip on the coveted trophy after defeating eastern rivals, World Class Soccer Clinic, 2-0 in the final at the Larry Gomes Stadium, Arima, on Sunday afternoon.
Unbeaten throughout the group stage, “SMS” sailed to the final having extraordinary success in the knockout round.
En route to the final, they comfortably overcame the top two teams from Tobago – beating Eagles FC 3-0 in the quarterfinal and Ball Blasters Football Academy 5-1 in the semifinal.
In the final, they faced an impressive “World Class” team who had endured an eye-catching run themselves. Their feat before the Championship game was defeating W Connection 3-2 in the semifinal having played half of the second period with ten men.
Fans filled the covered stands of the Larry Gomes Stadium to witness the nation’s brightest under-19 talents, particularly the top two scorers in the tournament – Larry Noel and Terron Miller – who play for the defending champions.
The match began similar to a chess match as “World Class” coach, Andre Morales, altered his usual system to accommodate a defensive setup in an attempt to tranquillise SMS’s lethal attacking duo.
However, in the 32nd minute, the inevitable occurred in poetic fashion as in-form Larry Noel – at the Larry (Gomes) Stadium – opened the scoring to put the champions ahead. The San Juan North Secondary striker was impressive in last year’s Secondary Schools Football League (SSFL) Premiership and he continued his clinical finishing to grace this tournament and the final.
Noel and Miller continued to be a nuisance to WCSC along with the midfield partnership Philip Tinto and Micah Nelson, who served as the engine to the SMS machine.
The majority of SMS’s plays were dictated by Tinto and Nelson as the team executed fluent passes in their 4-2-3-1 formation. They were also solid when the team later transitioned to a 4-3-1-2 setup to put pressure on WCSC’s nervous back line. The champions were ultimately rewarded for their pressing play in the 72nd minute as Noel ran onto a defence-splitting through-ball which created a 2v1 situation with himself and Miller against goalkeeper Josiah Morris. As Morris attempted to stop Noel’s charge, the San Juan striker laid the ball off to Miller who tapped home into an empty net. At full-time, SMS celebrated their second consecutive NLCL Community Cup title and their coach, Stephen Williams, joked that if they win it for the third consecutive time, the competition should be renamed the SMS Cup.
SMS also swept the individual awards, claiming every prize there was to win – MVP (Tyrell Inniss), Best Goalkeeper (Xavion Haynes), Best Defender (Tyrell Inniss), Best Midfielder (Philip Tinto), Top Goalscorer (Larry Noel, 10 goals) and Best Coach (Stephen Williams).
For WCSC, they will have to lift their heads and prepare for the upcoming T&T Youth League (Under-17 division). Prior to the final, W Connection and Ball Blasters Football Academy battled for third place at the same venue. After D’Reem Taylor’s opener for Ball Blasters in the 32nd and Duhrell Young’s equalising penalty in the 51st penalty, the match ended 1-1 at full-time and had to be decided through kicks from the penalty mark.
‘Connection’ goalkeeper Zerron Collymore turned out to be the star of the show, saving three penalties as his teammates got the scoring job done and led the ‘Savonetta Boys’ to a 4-1 victory from the penalty mark.
With the NLCL Under-19 Community Cup now successfully completed, local youth football will be continued by the TTFA via the Republic Bank National Under-20 Youth League and the National Under-17 Youth League, which are yet to have an official start date.
SOURCE: T&T Newsday