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Willis Plaza executed a cool finish, amidst a heated battle, seconds before the half to earn longstanding Digicel Pro League leaders Central FC a slim but valuable 1-0 win over home side Point Fortin Civic on Tuesday at the Mahaica Oval to secure the Akeem Adams (Round Two) Trophy on the penultimate day.


The Zoran Vranes coached-outfit, which already captured this season’s First Citizens Cup and the Rawle Fletcher (Round One) Trophy, tallied an unattainable 18 points in round two after completing their final fixture with three points against Civic—the only team with a realistic previous chance of toppling the “Couva Sharks” for Akeem Adams Trophy, which is named in honour of the fallen former W Connection and Central FC footballer and Point Fortin native.

Vranes was happy to add the Akeem Adams Trophy to Central’s cabinet but says it is still a long tough road to the club’s ambition of winning the DPL championship.

“We stepped up with two wins after losses (against Defence Force and San Juan Jabloteh 2-1 and 3-2 respectively) were we made mistakes but it’s going to be tough till the end,” Vranes said. “It’s still a long way to go but I think once we don’t make mistakes, we are good enough to win the championship.”

Central stands atop the regular DPL standings with 35 points, five points clear of reigning champions and second placed W Connection (30 points), who were held to a 1-1 draw against eight placed Caledonia AIA in their Round Two Match Day Eight fixture at the Ato Boldon Stadium on Tuesday night.

Mekeil Williams gave Connection the lead in the 80th minute beating goalkeeper Shemel Louison from the penalty spot but Caledonia tied the game in stoppage time with a 30-metre Kareem Joseph free-kick that defeated goalkeeper Julani Archibald.

Simultaneously at the Marvin Lee Stadium, North East Stars (26 points) leapfrogged Defence Force for third position after handing cellar placed St. Ann’s Rangers their 14th league defeat from of the 2014-2015 season with a 2-1 score.

Defender Aquil Selby gave the Stars a 1-0 lead in the 19th minute but the Sangre Grande outfit needed a 75th minute winner from attacker Kennedy Hinkson after Rangers forward Devon Modeste tied the scores before the break with his first goal since returning to his old employers during the January transfer window from Pro League-bound Club Sando.

Defence Force meanwhile, dropped further down the ladder by the end of the second match at the Ato Boldon Stadium.

Defence Force were downed 2-1 by Jabloteh, who moved two spots up the ladder into fourth position and tied on 23 points with the army/coastguard combination, while Civic dropped a spot into sixth with 20 points but ahead of Police (17 points), Caledonia (16 points) and Rangers (1 point).

Jabloteh’s Jamaican forward Newton Sterling scored on either side of the break, in the 22nd and 47th minutes, to pace the San Juan club to a 2-1 win.

Devorn Jorsling had pulled back in the 84th minute but it was only enough to take his league scoring tally this season to 7 goals, tied with teammate Richard Roy, Central’s Marvin Oliver and Willis Plaza, Jabloteh’s Kerry Baptiste and Civic’s Marcus Joseph, but two goals shy of Connection’s Jerrel Britto and one goal behind Caledonia’s Purnell Schultz and Central’s Ataullah Guerra.

Plaza, however, only became active for Central in the January transfer window this season.

The Trinidad and Tobago international dispatched a low strike from inside the box to beat Civic goalie Marvin Phillip in the 45th minute on Tuesday.

Plaza had worked a neat exchange with Jason Marcano inside the box to create the scoring opportunity after the home side failed to quell a subsequent string of passes orchestrated by substitute Ataulla Guerra.

Civic, boasting four straight wins in all competitions before kick-off, had an early chance to take the lead but ace forward Marcus Joseph missed an open net just two minutes into the match. The Leroy De Leon-coached Civic also had a shout for penalty in the 16th minute after a tackle on Andre Toussaint inside the box by defender Jamal Jack, but referee Callum Marshall wasn’t entertained.

Marshall actually had his work cut out in the afternoon heat and standing in the middle of a very physical contest. Marshall dished out only two cautions to either side but many believed the official had been far too lenient.

Plaza’s goal was vital but so were saves by Central goalkeeper Jan-Michael Williams. The Trinidad and Tobago international custodian made a low save in the 18th minute to thwart a Weslie John effort from distance and in the 31st minute pulled off a one-handed save to push a Joseph strike wide for a corner.

Williams made another crucial one handed save in the 71st minute, tipping behind a Toussaint free-kick at the last moment.

“We played the big boys and we were right there with them,” said Civic interim head coach Leroy De Leon following the match. “It was good. We actually had a couple chances to take while they had a dinky chance and they scored.”

Goal-scorer Plaza had a stoppage-time opportunity to grab a second after he was picked out by Guerra but made a mess of things, allowing an easy gather by Phillip. Guerra too, had a missed opportunity with nine minutes of regular time left against Civic.

“It was a tough game,” acknowledged Vranes. “They (Civic) are a very good team. It’s not out of nothing that they have won four straight games since coach DeLeon came in. We (Central) were more dangerous and created more chances but it was probably our toughest game in the season so far.”

Meanwhile DeLeon, who led Civic to league wins over W Connection (2-1), Rangers (4-1), Defence Force (2-1), and a 4-3 penalty win over Petrotrin Palo Seco in the FA Trophy Round of 32 since taking over as interim head coach following a walkout by coach Reynold Carrington, is confident of returning to winning ways following Tuesday’s defeat.

“We are doing fine,” he said. “We are going to win a lot of games.”

DeLeon, a former Trinidad and Tobago star footballer, said it was simply a matter of adjusting some attitudes since taking over on an interim basis.

“It’s the same squad, nothing strange. It’s the same group of players that I’ve inherited. But it was just a matter of adjusting some attitudes. Every time we go to practice I try to break one bad habit but time is of the essence in the sense that we have very tight schedule with league and FA fixtures and we are not getting to put in some good practice. But I see progress although we are still lacking mental toughness for longer periods. It was the same under the previous coach where the players only showed mental toughness sporadically as we saw against Central playing tough for 20 or 30 minutes and all of a sudden disappear.”

Civic will return to action on Friday 27 February when to travel to the Marvin Lee Stadium against Police FC from 8 pm following a 6 pm kick off between Rangers and Defence Force at the Macoya venue.

Simultaneously at the Ato Boldon Stadium, Caledonia will tackle North East Stars from 6 pm and W Connection against Jabloteh from 8 pm while Central are on the bye.

Round Two Match Day Eight Results

Point Fortin Civic 0 vs Central FC 1 (Willis Plaza 45’)

St. Ann's Rangers 1 (Devon Modeste 39’) vs North East Stars 2 (Aquil Selby 19’, Kennedy Hinkson 75’)

Caledonia AIA 1 (Kareem Joseph 90’+) vs W Connection 1 (Mekeil Williams 80’ penalty)

San Juan Jabloteh 2 (Newton Sterling 22’, 47’) vs Defence Force 1 (Devorn Jorsling 84’)

Teams

Point Fortin Civic: 1.Marvin Phillip; 5.Andre Ettienne (C), 4.Weslie John, 6.Akeem Redhead, 8.Nickcolson Thomas, 11.Andre Toussaint, 10.Marcus Joseph (20.Jamille Boatswain 59th), 99.Shackiel Henry (9.Matthew Bartholomew 71st), 19.Andrei Pacheco, 15.Rondell Paul (Yellow Card), 18.Trent Lougheed (Yellow Card)

Unused substitutes: 52.Akini Adams (GK), 7.Kelvin Modeste, 25.Andre Matthew, 23.Kelvin Modeste, 27.Bevon Bass

Coach: Leroy DeLeon

Central FC: 21.Jan-Michael Williams; 11.Darren Mitchell (3.Keon Goodridge 87th), 12.Jamal Jack, 7.Jason Marcano (6.Leston Paul 64th), 15.Kaydion Gabriel, 33.Willis Plaza, 4.Uriah Bentick, 2.Elton John, 17.Marcelle Francois (Yellow Card), 99.Dwight Quintero (45.Ataullah Guerra 39th), 10.Marvin Oliver (Yellow Card)

Unused substitutes: 30.Akel Clarke (GK), 29.Upston Edwards, 14.Jean-Luc Rochford, 19.Nathaniel Garcia

Coach: Zoran Vranes

Referee: Callum Marshall.

RELATED NEWS

Disquiet in Point Fortin as Central wins again
By Lasana Liburd (Wired868.com)


Another Willis Plaza goal and another three-point haul for Central FC yesterday afternoon as the Pro League leaders edged Point Fortin Civic 1-0 at the Mahaica Oval, Point Fortin.

The “Central Choir” were not present to belt out their non-ending stream of English-flavoured club hymns but we all know the tune by now:

“Plaza scores when he likes…”

The triumph put Central five points clear of defending champions DIRECTV W Connection who were held to a surprise 1-1 draw by Caledonia AIA at the Ato Boldon Stadium in Couva yesterday.

It means that Central is guaranteed the prize for topping the second round of competition having already earned the honour for the first round.

There were actually two shocks at the Ato Boldon Stadium as a Newton Sterling double helped San Juan Jabloteh to a 2-1 win over Defence Force. Jabloteh climbed to fourth place on the back of that result while the Army/Coast Guard combination slipped two spots to fifth.

In yesterday afternoon’s other encounter, North East Stars returned to winning ways with a 2-1 triumph over St Ann’s Rangers at the Marvin Lee Stadium, Macoya.

It was Rangers’ tenth straight defeat and their 14th League loss of the season from 15 games—they managed one draw against Caledonia last October. There is no way to sugar-coat such dismal statistics.

At one point this season, Civic kept Rangers’ company near the foot of the table. Point Fortin’s fightback began earlier this year under departed coach Reynold Carrington but, after three League games on a trot before Central’s visit, it is safe to say that their impetus has accelerated under current boss and former Trinidad and Tobago football icon Leroy De Leon.

Once a silky, thrilling attacking midfielder, De Leon credited an increased focus on his players’ mental toughness for their positive results.

“I’ve tried to change their attitude and their way of thinking about football,” De Leon told Wired868. “I’m trying to break bad habits. Every session, I try to break at least one bad habit.

“It is a long process (because) their mental state of mind is not (what it should be).”

In Civic’s first game under De Leon, talented Trinidad and Tobago international goalkeeper Marvin Phillip spent the 90 minutes on the substitutes’ bench. Today, it was Civic’s leading scorer, Marcus Joseph, who got a taste of tough love as he stomped towards the changing room after being withdrawn in the 58th minute.

De Leon said he was dissatisfied with Joseph’s contribution—both in imposing himself on Central and helping his own teammates.

“For any marquee player, when a team comes to play they must be wary of you,” said De Leon. “I don’t care if he thinks he is bigger than this game. He is not.

“I don’t care who you are. You have to earn it on the field not talk about it.”

Civic were more unified at kick off and should have opened the scoring within the first 15 minutes.

The game was barely two minutes old when Joseph shot overbar from inside the opposing penalty area while Central goalkeeper Jan-Michael Williams and veteran sweeper Marvin Oliver were alert to thwart a swivelled shot from Civic defender Weslie John and a clever dummy from Joseph in the 13th and 14th minutes respectively.

The home team had a good shout for a penalty too in the 15th minute as Joseph flicked a Shackiel Henry pass into the path of Civic playmaker Andre Toussaint who was clumsily bundled over by Central defender Jamal Jack.

Referee Callum Marshall, a La Brea resident, looked the other way and his disinclination to punish foul play would be a recurring theme in a generally fast and competitive fixture.

Civic were marginally better for much of the first half hour. Upfront, Toussaint and Joseph kept Central guessing with their “good cop/bad cop” routine—Toussaint drew players close with his magnetic technique on an awkward, bumpy surface while Joseph made them scatter with booming left foot strikes and quick changes of direction.

But, as the game crossed the half hour mark, the host team lost their compactness in central midfield and Central took advantage.

Vranes’ decision to replace Dwight Quintero with “Soca Warrior” Ataulla Guerra, inside the first 40 minutes, seemed borne out of frustration at the young attacker’s workrate. But it proved to be a tactical masterstroke.

Civic’s midfield enforcers, Nickcolson Thomas and Trent Lougheed, were holding their own against Central’s attacking pair of Jason Marcano and Darren Mitchell. Suddenly, there was Guerra dropping off the front man to create an additional passing option at a time when Civic’s front four—with the exception of 21-year-old Akeem Redhead—had grown lethargic in their defensive transition.

Seconds before the halftime whistle, the “Couva Sharks” benefited from the shift in the tide with a fine team goal. Plaza worked a wall pass with Guerra then backheeled to Marcano who returned the ball into space for the striker to run on to before driving home at the near post.

It was a cruel time to concede and, at the resumption of the second half, Joseph found himself repositioned on the left flank as Henry took up Civic’s striking duties.

Joseph’s chin seemed to have dropped so low that it was a wonder he did not trip over it.

The gifted attacker’s day got considerably worse when, in the 58th minute, he became the first Civic player to be substituted.

“Allyuh not serious!” shouted Joseph.

“I don’t care; play big!” De Leon yelled back. “You’re playing on the national team (so) show people (why) you’re playing on the national team!”

It was not the most extraordinary disagreement at the Mahaica Oval today. That came from Toussaint and Guerra in the 66th minute.

Guerra was ghosting around Civic players like cones at the time when Toussaint obstructed his path. The former player reached over and picked Toussaint up like a parent disdainfully moving a toy from his path.

“He is a lightweight,” Guerra explained afterwards. “I wanted to show him that.”

It was an extraordinary sight and that might have been the saving grace of the talented attacker who had only just returned from a two-match suspension for reckless conduct.

Marshall whistled and summoned Guerra.

“What?!” retorted Guerra. “You can’t book me for that!”

Marshall, who almost certainly had never seen anything like that in his refereeing manual, couldn’t think of a counter-argument and gave a free kick to Central instead.

Civic did manage to push Central back on their heels for the final eight minutes but never really looked like overpowering them.

“(Central) is a well organised team,” said De Leon. “They have people upfront with confidence on the ball and we don’t have that. I am trying to get there but it takes time…

“But we will be okay.”

Between the gutsy performances of Lougheed, Redhead, full backs Ronell Paul and Andrei Pacheco and the trickery of Toussaint, Civic gave enough reason for confidence yesterday.

But Central, an athletic, hungry outfit steered by the perceptive duo of Oliver and holding midfielder Elton John, were worth their win.

The Sharks, who are in their third Pro League season, have never won the League competition before and they would do well to be wary of Connection’s powers of recovery. If yesterday was any guide, they will not give up their lead without a fight though.

(Teams)

Central FC (5-3-2): 21.Jan-Michael Williams (GK) (captain); 15.Kaydion Gabriel, 17.Marcelle Francois, 10.Marvin Oliver, 12.Jamal Jack, 4.Uriah Bentick; 7.Jason Marcano (6.Leston Paul 65), 2.Elton John, 11.Darren Mitchell (3.Keon Goodridge 85); 99.Dwight Quintero (45.Ataulla Guerra 40), 33.Willis Plaza.

Unused substitutes: 30.Akel Clarke (GK), 14.Jean-Luc Rochford, 19.Nathaniel Garcia, 29.Upston Edwards.

Coach: Zoran Vranes

Point Fortin Civic (4-2-3-1): 1.Marvin Phillip (GK); 15.Ronell Paul, 5.Andre Ettienne (captain), 4.Weslie John, 19.Andrei Pacheco; 8.Nickcolson Thomas, 18.Trent Lougheed; 99.Shackiel Henry (9.Matthew Bartholomew 71), 11.Andre Toussaint, 6.Akeem Redhead; 10.Marcus Joseph (20.Jamille Boatswain 58).

Unused substitutes: 52.Akini Adams (GK), 7.Kelvin Modeste, 23.Kelvin Rouse, 25.Andre Matthew, 27.Bevon Bass.

Coach: Leroy De Leon

Referee: Callum Marshall