Team captain Tarik Lee scored a hat-trick to lead St Benedict’s College to their first National League title since 1967 when they outplayed Fatima College 3-1 in an entertaining Tiger Tanks Secondary Schools Football League (SSFL) Premier Division “Big-Four” final at the Ato Boldon Stadium, Couva, yesterday.
In a match that featured three penalty kicks, all for St Benedict’s, Lee scored one from the penalty spot in the 61st minute while he also netted in the 32nd and 73rd minutes to lead St Benedict’s to a well-deserved win and league title honours for the first time in 55 years when they defeated Fatima College.
Both teams met on the opening day of the season in a league match that ended 1-1, but from early on in yesterday’s match St Benedict’s signalled their intentions that they were up for the challenge.
In the tenth minute, the St Benedict’s ‘Golden Lions’ had their first real chance to open the scoring when referee Crystal Sobers whistled for her first penalty kick of the match after Fatima right-back Jaden Williams was called for a shove on St Benedict’s midfielder Nicholas Bobcome inside the 18-yard box.
The penalty call by Sobers was somewhat of a controversial one as she first allowed the play to go in the hope of St Benedict’s making full use of the advantage before she eventually called the infringement to the anguish of the Fatima players.
But, from the resulting spot kick, Fatima’s national youth team goalkeeper Tristan Edwards also showed he was up for the challenge on the day and kept the match scoreless when he went low to his left to keep out Derell Garcia’s tame effort.
It seemed just a matter of time before the Ronald Boyce-coached Golden Lions’ would open the scoring and the opener finally came in the 32nd minute through some clever work by the nippy Jeremiah Niles, who weaved his way past two defenders on the left side of the 18-yard box before squaring the ball to an unmarked Lee, who wrong-footed Williams before firing a left-footed shot into the far corner for a well deserved 1-0 advantage.
A minute Lee turned provider for Garcia, but his well-timed effort was smartly blocked out by a low save from Edwards, with Lee mistiming the rebound wide of the target to let the 2005 national champions Fatima off the hook.
On the resumption, Fatima started the brighter of both teams but St Benedict’s led by Lee, Garcia, and Bobcome in the attack were soon back into their stride and in the 61st minute, Sobers awarded her second penalty of the contest when defender Jesse Hospedales was called for an infringement against the influential Garcia off a long ball over the top from Lee, who coolly slotted the ball past Edwards low to his right to double the lead to 2-0.
Despite the 2-0 deficit, Fatima never dropped their heads, and spurred on by captain Christian Bailey, the northerners sliced the lead in half, second-half introduction Kade Collier connected with a right-footed volley off a left-sided floated centre from his captain which flew past goalkeeper Thane Devenish to his right to the delight of his teammates.
However, Fatima’s joy was short-lived as Lee soon restored his team’s two-goal cushion when he completed his hat-trick five minutes later by latching onto a through ball from Bobcome, before holding off the challenge of Fatima left back Alijah Nunes and blasting a powerful right-footed effort past Edwards on his near post off a slight defection from the retreating defender.
With nine minutes left in the match, there was still time for Sobers to award her third penalty-kick of the evening to St Benedict’s which Lee surprisingly left for defender Keanu Morean, but to his dismay, his right-footed effort was pushed around the right post for a corner to give Fatima hope of a late fight-back.
In the end, St Benedict’s who were national Inter-Col winners in 1998 were deserving winners as they captured their first National SSFL League crown since 1967, and ensured the title stayed in the hands of south-based schools since its inception with Naparima College, a four-time winner, and Shiva Boys Hindu College, and Presentation College of San Fernando, the other teams.
St Benedict’s College (4-3-3): 22.Thane Devenish (GK); 4.Keanu Morean, 6.Nesean Alexander, 5.Joshua Demas, 19.Lyshawn Morris; 8.Darrel Garcia (20.Rayshawn Crichlow 77), 5.Ephraim Brown, 12.Josiah Ochoa; 10.Nicholas Bobcombe, 7.Tarik Lee (captain), 11.Jeremiah Niles (21.Malacai Webb 87).
Unused substitutes: 1.Ja-ir Buckmire (GK), 2.Joshua Phillip, 3.Anthony Williams, 9.Jaden Grant, 18.Tyrique Lucas.
Coach: Randolph Boyce
Fatima College (4-3-3): 40.Tristan Edwards (GK); 3.Jesse Hospedales, 4.Yohance Atherton (13.Isaiah Zamore 64), 6.Jaden Williams, 2.Alijah Nunes; 7.Khiba Romany (5.Darius Jordan 70), 8.Justin Alcantara, 10.Aidan DeGannes (14.Kade Collier 64); 23.Christian Bailey (captain), 21.Joshua Mason, 12.Chaim Williams (15.Michael Chaves 64).
Unused substitutes: 42.Tyrece Romain (GK), 11.Logan Maingot, 17.Jose Attong.
Coach: Hutson Charles
Referee: Crystal Sobers
Wired868 Man of the Match: Tarik Lee (St Benedict’s College)