Central unbeaten in seven; North East Stars and Police grab a point each in 8-goal feast
Willis Plaza scored from the penalty spot Tuesday to level Central FC to a thrilling 2-2 draw with Defence Force in Round One Match Day Two of the Digicel Pro League (DPL) championship 2015-16.
It was one of four drawn encounters while Point Fortin Civic stood the only winners of the day as the DPL took centre stage.
Civic defeated San Juan Jabloteh 2-0 with forwards Shackiel Henry and Jamille Boatswain getting on the scoresheet in the 50th and 84th minutes, respectively, at the Mahaica Oval.
But the day’s first match under the sunny afternoon at the Larry Gomes Stadium saw North East Stars and Police FC take a point each in an 8-goal feast.
North East Stars led 4-2 with 6 minutes of regular time after goals from Keron Cummings, Brendon Figuera, Duane Muckette and Dillon Jaggesar. But stoppage time goals from Kareem Freitas—his second on the day—and Anton Hutchinson earned the Lawmen a spectacular 4-4 comeback draw.
Jameel Perry had opened the scoring for Police’s first item.
Also settling for shared points were W Connection and Morvant Caledonia United (MCU), in a preview of Friday’s First Citizens Cup (FCC) semi-final, which saw them finish 1-1 at the Hasely Crawford Stadium following St. Ann’s Rangers 2-2 draw with Club Sando, the side that booted them out of the FCC last weekend.
Anthony Paris, who equalised for Sando in the 80th minute, scored again in stoppage time to salvage a point for the Pro League newcomers after Rangers defender Jelani Peters had a double of his own with goals in the 62th and 89th minutes.
It was a huge improvement from coach Angus Eve's Rangers which suffered a 3-1 loss to the same side three days ago.
In the second match at the Port of Spain venue, midfielder Jameel Neptune equalised in the 84th minute for MCU after Connection had taken the lead through midfielder Jomal Williams on the hour mark.
Down at the Ato Boldon Stadium, defending DPL champions Central, led this season by former two-time league winning coach of Defence Force, Ross Russell, had the go ahead goal in the 20th minute through forward Marcus Joseph—the pre-season signing completing a move which started from a free-kick for his first goal for the Couva Sharks.
But two minutes later, Defence Force tied the scores 1-1 when forward Kellon Serrette scored from close range after a failed attempt from a teammate in the six-yard area.
Firstly, it was a curious tactic by Defence Force coach Marvin Gordon, a former understudy to Russell, to start Serrette ahead of scoring ace Devorn Jorsling and Richard Roy, especially in their first match against each other.
Despite sharing a close friendship, tonight’s league clash was all business and Gordon’s choice of Serrette up front paid off with the equalising goal.
Defence Force later took to the half with a 2-1 lead, thanks to a goal in the 25th minute by veteran midfielder and team captain Jerwyn Balthazar, who found the far side of goalkeeper Jan-Michael Williams netting following a defensive slack by the Couva Sharks.
Gordon’s side had the chance to add a further blow to Central on the hour mark but midfielder Kerry Joseph smashed his strike low and wide of goal from the penalty spot.
The soldiers won the penalty after a handball in the area by Central defender Jamal Jack, whose outstretched arm intercepted a right side corner. Referee Rashby Mc Phie had allowed play to continue temporarily but wisely consulted his assistant referee Dennis Changiah who waved for the infringement.
That missed effort haunted Defence Force in the 64th minute when Plaza converted from the spot to level Central 2-2, a score which stood at the end.
There was little chance for Defence Force goalie Sheldon Clarke against the in-form forward. However Clarke was brilliant on free-kicks, denying Central on free-kicks in the 50th and 68th minutes by Sean De Silva and Joseph (M), respectively.
As for Plaza, it was the Trinidad and Tobago international’s sixth goal in five matches but more importantly, it extended the Couva Sharks unbeaten run to seven matches in all competitions ahead of Friday’s semi-final round of the 2015 First Citizens Cup, where the two-time defending champions must face Club Sando from 8 pm at the Ato Boldon Stadium in Couva. W Connection and Morvant Caledonia United will do battle in semi-final one from 6 pm.
Referee Mc Phie had awarded the penalty kick after Defence Force defender Curtis Gonzales was ruled guilty of tripping goalward Kevon Villaroel to ground inside the box.
Gordon responded with the introduction of Roy, trading Serrette for the fresh legs of the former Toyota/Pro League Player of the Year. However Roy was only able to manage one strike on target in the 74th minute which Williams got to, then smashed wide from the resulting corner kick play.
Williams also made a crucial stop in stoppage time to blank Defence Force substitute Dave Long as coaches Russell and Gordon had to settle for a point a piece.
Digicel Pro League Results
St. Ann's Rangers 2 (Jelani Peters 62, 89) vs Club Sando 2 (Anthony Paris 80’, 90’+)
Morvant Caledonia United 1 (Jameel Neptune 84’) vs W Connection 1 (Jomal Williams 60’)
Point Fortin Civic 2 (Shackiel Henry 50’, Jamille Boatswain 84’) vs San Juan Jabloteh 0
Central FC 2 (Marcus Joseph 20’, Willis Plaza 64’) vs Defence Force 2 (Kellon Serette 22’, Jerwyn Balthazar 25’)
North East Stars 4 (Keron Cummings 22’, Brendon Figuera 28’, Duane Muckette 58’, Dillon Jaggesar 84’) vs Police FC 4 (Jameel Perry 34’, Kareem Freitas 81’, 90’+, Anton Hutchinson 90+).
Central FC: 21.Jan-Michael Williams (capt.); 12.Jamal Jack, 24.Kevon Villaroel, 17.Marcelle Francois, 2.Elton John, 10.Marvin Oliver, 8.Sean De Silva (19.Nathaniel Garcia 74th), 22.Leston Paul (7.Jason Marcano 57th), 99.Marcus Joseph (11.Darren Mitchell 82nd), 33.Willis Plaza, 15.Kaydion Gabriel
Unused substitutes: 6.Kerry Baptiste, 26.Mickaeel Jem Gordon, 30.Akel Clarke (GK), 23.Jean-Luc Rochford
Coach: Ross Russell
Defence Force: 25.Sheldon Clarke; 2.Glynn Franklyn (13.Marvin Jones 31st), 6.Rodell Elcock, 8.Curtis Gonzales,12.Jemel Sebro, 16.Kellon Serette (26.Richard Roy 67th), 17.Ross Russell Jr., 23.Kerry Joseph (4.Dave Long 84th), 99.Jerwyn Balthazar (capt.), 52.Stephen Campbell, 30.Kishon Seecharan
Unused substitutes: 80.Aaron Enil (GK), 9.Devorn Jorsling, 7.Jelani Felix, 18.Sean Narcis
Coach: Marvin Gordon
Referee: Rashby Mc Phie.