Presentation College, San Fernando got a perfect start to their campaign in the Secondary Schools Football League (SSFL) by clinching the opening Tiger Tank Cup, defeating arch-rival Naparima College 3-2 in a penalty shoot-out at the Ato Boldon Stadium in Balmain, Couva n Friday, following a 1-1 tie in regulation time.
But coach Shawn Cooper, whose men were forced to soak up periods of unrelenting Naparima pressure, would have a lot of work to do if they are to claim more titles this season.
The game for many reasons drew an expected large turnout in Couva. For some, it was a moment to feed the starvation felt by having no football for the past two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic, while for others, it was the restart of a rivalry between two teams that goes back many years.
Naparima, coached by former Queen’s Royal College (QRC) midfielder Travis Mulraine, looked the better team in the early moments with Josiah Bobb, Omari Campbell, Kanye Francis leading the attack amidst two groups of nervous players, despite their eagerness to take the football field after two years.
The match was just 14 minutes old when Bobb, the creator of early problems for the Presentation defenders, took the ball down the left flank and centred for the unmarked Campbell to connect from point blank range, but goalkeeper Kanye Lazarus somehow kept it out.
Presentation College, the defending champion team, was determined to defend their title and they defended stoutly at the back while launching their attacks in spurts.
In spite of their determination, however, the ‘Pres’ young men could do nothing when Campbell slipped the ball into the path of an unmarked Francis on top of the box, to calmly slot the ball beyond the onrushing Lazarus in the Presentation goal in the 23rd minute.
Nine minutes later, the generosity of Naparima custodian Dejon Collingwood proved costly for his team, as it earned Presentation the equalising item in the 32nd minute.
‘Pres’ defender Cody Cooper launched a long ball high in search of captain Caleb Boyce, who had been surrounded by some three ‘Naps’ defenders. However, with the ball seemingly heading into the comfortable arms of Collingwood, the custodian hesitated to hold on to the ball, allowing Boyce with a toe in to push the ball past him and into the goal for the equalising item before the half-time interval.
On the resumption, the teams could not break the deadlock.
Naparima, who enjoyed more of the chances, thought they could have won it when Josiah Cooper picked out substitute Israel Joseph with a left-side cross, but Joseph’s header crashed off the crossbar before bouncing to safety in the 79th minute.
At the end of regulation time, the teams went into an immediate penalty shoot-out to decide on the winner. Following four missed penalties at the start, ‘Pres’ got goals from Levi Jones, Cooper and Adah Barclay, while ‘Naps’ got goals from captain Omari Archer and Giovanni Mc Knight.
Tyrell Rajoon, who had the opportunity to level the scores at the shootout for Naparima, fired his effort against the upright before going out for the Presentation win.
Action in the SSFL will continue on Wednesday.
Pres S'do defeat Naps for Tiger Tanks Cup.
T&T Newsday Reports.
AFTER two years without school football, Presentation College (San Fernando) kicked off the 2022 Secondary Schools Football League (SSFL) season with silverware, winning the Tiger Tanks Cup 3-2 via kicks from the penalty mark against rivals, Naparima College, at the Ato Boldon Stadium, Couva on Friday.
‘Pres’ dethroned the defending champions as Naparima last won the trophy in 2019.
Naparima College opened the scoring in the 24th minute through Kanye Francis. The Naps number 10 slotted the ball past goalkeeper Kanye Lazarus into the bottom left corner after receiving a defence-splitting through-ball from midfield.
But Presentation fought back and grabbed an equaliser eight minutes later, thanks to Caleb Boyce. From the top of the penalty area, the ‘Pres’ captain lobbed Naparima goalkeeper, Dajon Collingwood, who hesitated to make a challenge after coming off his line.
The game was then plagued by injuries and several players were forced to be replaced.
At the end of regular time, the score remained at 1-1 and the game had to be decided by kicks from the penalty mark.
After missing their first two penalties, the ‘Pres Lions’ dramatically recovered to win 3-2.
Speaking with Newsday after the game, Presentation coach Shawn Cooper expressed his delight for the victory and the bragging rights against the school’s bitter rivals.
“Even though this trophy is just for bragging rights, I am elated for the guys who put in the work to achieve this,” he stated.
“We put on a show for the spectators to open the 2022 season, but I think we still have a lot of work to do in terms of our physicality.”
Cooper continued, “We showed that we can play against the best. Naparima has a very strong unit but I think our boys wanted it more, and at the end of the game, we imposed ourselves.”
With school football being absent for two years, Cooper added that the technical staff had to educate the new players about the significance of the Pres-Naps rivalry and that they are the flag-bearers of top-level football in Trinidad and Tobago.
He also highlighted the number of high-quality coaches in the league, mentioning Naparima’s Travis Mulraine, Queens Royal College’s Kenwyne Jones, and stated that the league will be competitive this season.
Cooper also expressed that, of all his title wins, this one was most special to him as his son was now a part of his team’s success. “Since I started coaching, all of my victories were dedicated to my son, Cody Cooper,” he said. “In this game, he played, he made me proud and he was on a winning team.”
He also gave credit to Caleb Boyce, who was named Man of the Match, stating, “He really led the team by effort and performance”.
Cooper also expressed that he was pleased with the full-time result, and the victory from the penalty shootout was a bonus, having been less prepared than their opponents, physically and tactically.
Presentation will open their Premiership campaign against Trinity College East on September 14 while Naparima begin their SSFL title defence against St Augustine Secondary on the same day.