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W Connection, led by a hat-trick from Golden Boot winner Marcus “Lobo” Joseph, clinched the Trinidad and Tobago Pro League 2018 crown—an unprecedented sixth league title since the turn of the professional era in 1999—by a point on the final night yesterday with an cool 4-0 victory over table-proppers North East Stars at Ato Boldon Stadium after Couva rivals Central FC had forced Stuart Charles Fevrier’s men into a must-win situation against last season’s champions.

Three-time former PL champions Central (36 points), courtesy an Akim Armstrong strike at the Couva venue, had earlier taken the league lead by two points with a narrow 1-0 win over Police FC, who like Club Sando surrendered their chance at a top-two finish on the final night,.

At the end of the night’s action, however, the Couva Sharks had to settle for runners-up but will join Connection (37 points) at the 2020 CONCACAF Caribbean Club Championship for their credible effort while Sando and Police (both on 33 points and separated by goal-difference) finished third and fourth respectively.

The Caribbean Club Championship—which serves as the qualifier tournament to the CONCACAF Champions League and CONCACAF League—will see last season’s PL champions and runners-up North East Stars and multiple-time former Caribbean champions Connection, respectively, will represent T&T at the 2019 edition which begins in January.

North East Stars, a far cry from the outfit that won the PL last season under then coach Derek King, must improve in player personnel if they are to give a good account of themselves on international debut against the likes of former Caribbean champions Cibao FC and Atlético San Francisco of the Dominican Republic, Portmore United and Waterhouse FC of Jamaica, and Haiti’s Série d’Ouverture winners AS Capoise and Série de Clôture winners. Last night’s performance—their 22nd match without a win from 23 outings in all competitions this season—was a clear reminder of the challenges that await coach Zoran Vranes in the new year.

T&T forward Joseph put Connection ahead from as early as one minute 30 seconds played when he scored from the tightest of angles to beat North East Stars goalkeeper Javon Sample before Neil Benjamin Jr. cushioned the Fevrier’s men 2-0 off a Briel Thomas assist in the 13th minute after Jomal Williams and Kadeem Corbin were both denied by the post.

Allister Bernard unscored with the goal at his mercy around the half-hour mark before teammate Lashawn Roberts’ powerful effort three minutes from the half cannoned off the upright as North East Stars’ miserable night dragged on.

Sample made a number of fine saves on either side of the break including keeping out a powerful Alvin Jones free kick then a follow-up effort by the T&T international and two efforts from Jomal Williams separated by the half, however his side fell further behind 11 minutes into the second period when Benjamin turned provider for Joseph to make it 3-0.

Joseph completed his hat-trick in the 65th minute to make it 4-0 and moved ahead of Sando’s Tyrone Charles by one league goal with 18 to capture his second league Golden Boot after the 2013/14 season thanks to the Jomal Williams’ generosity in rolling a pass across the area for the Point Fortin forward to hit his 25th goal of the season in all competitions into a gaping net.

Charles finished with 17 league goals and nineteen in all competitions, one less than Police’s Kareem Freitas who had 15 in the league and 20 in all competitions, followed by Armstrong whose 14th league goal and sixteenth in all competitions arrived against Police to qualify Central for a fourth Caribbean Club Championship in five seasons.

Police brothers Jameel and Kareem Perry both had excellent openings midway through the first half but on both occasions T&T shot-stopper Marvin Phillip was alert to avert danger before Dillon Kirton drilled an effort wide of the Central custodian’s upright as the Couva Sharks looked porous at the back in the opening half.

An ambitious Christon Thomas attempt from 35 yards out sailed just high as the “Lawmen” grew in confidence before Central had their star player and T&T midfielder Duane Muckette limp off injured and was replaced by Xavier Rajpaul four minutes from the half.

Armstrong however punished Richard Hood’s side in the 68th minute following a mix-up by a defender and goalkeeper Adrian Foncette by poking the eventual winner into the net, at which time his former employers Sando were trailing a two-nil score against his ex-club Morvant Caledonia United at the Hasely Crawford Stadium.

Keron “Ball Pest” Cummings had put the “Eastern Stallions” in front six minutes from the half and Guyana international Sheldon Holder doubled the advantage in the 59th minute before completing his double and the 3-0 win in the 90th minute to dash Sando’s hopes of a top-two finish.

Later at the Port of Spain venue San Juan Jabloteh signed off with a 5-0 win over Terminix St. Ann’s Rangers with veteran attacker and multiple-time former league winner Jason Marcano scoring a hat-trick while Josiah Baird and Tyrese Baily each had a goal.

Jabloteh (27 points) finished unmoved in seventh, three points below Defence Force and Morvant Caledonia in fifth and sixth respectively, but above, in descending order, Point Fortin Civic (11 points), Rangers (10 points) and North East Stars (6 points).

Pro League 2018
Round Two Match Day Nine
(Friday 07 December)

Morvant Caledonia United 3 (Keron Cummings 39’, Sheldon Holder 59’, 90’) vs Club Sando 0, at Hasely Crawford Stadium;

San Juan Jabloteh 5 (Jason Marcano 11’, 27’, 50’, Josiah Baird 30’, Tyrese Bailey 59’) vs Terminix St. Ann’s Rangers 0, at Hasely Crawford Stadium;

Central FC 1 (Akim Armstrong 68’) vs Police FC 0, at Ato Boldon Stadium;

W Connection 4 (Marcus Joseph 2’, 56’, 65’, Neil Benjamin Jr. 13’) vs North East Stars 0, at Ato Boldon Stadium.

Pro League 2018 standings

# Team MP W D L GF GA GD Pts
1 W Connection 18 10 7 1 43 8 35 37
2 Central FC 18 11 3 4 42 25 17 36
3 Club Sando 18 10 3 5 44 26 18 33
4 Police FC 18 10 3 5 37 21 16 33
5 Defence Force FC 18 9 3 6 38 21 17 30
6 Morvant Caledonia Utd 18 8 6 4 36 22 14 30
7 San Juan Jabloteh 18 8 3 7 29 24 5 27
8 Point Fortin Civic 18 3 2 13 20 46 -26 11
9 Terminix St. Ann’s Rangers 18 3 1 14 13 67 -54 10
10 North East Stars 18 1 3 14 16 58 -42 6

Teams at the Ato Boldon Stadium on Friday
Game 1
Central FC: 1.Marvin Phillip (GK); 3.Ewan Grandison, 7.Hakim Baird, 8.Akim Armstrong, 10.Leston Paul, 12.Taryk Sampson, 13.Rhondel Gibson, 18.Densill Theobald (Capt.), 19.Jared London, 24.Duane Muckette (11.Xavier Rajpaul 41st minute), 29.Russel Alfred (9.Tyrik John 90th minute).

Unused substitutes: 30.Zane Coker (GK); 5.Dwight Pope, 17.Renaldo Alexander.

Coach: Stern John

Police FC: 18.Adrian Foncette (GK) (Capt.); 4.Kadeem Boyce, 7.Kareem Perry (15.Christian Thomas 65th minute), 8.Kurdell Brathwaite, 9.Jameel Perry (32.Keion Wilson 73rd minute), 10.Kareem Freitas, 12.Nequan Caruth (11.Micah Lewis 74th minute), 13.Dillon Kirton, 16.Brendon Creed, 19.Christon Thomas, 33.Kemrom Purcell.

Unused substitutes: 22.Theon Browne (GK); 3.Ryan O’Neil, 5.Kenaz Williams, 14.Michael Hyacinth.

Coach: Richard Hood

Match Officials
Referee: Kwinsi Williams
Assistant Referee 1: Kevin Lewis
Assistant Referee 2: Johann Corneille
Fourth Official: Gyasi Mc Donald
Match Commissioner: Wayne Caesar

Game 2
W Connection: 18.Julani Archibald (GK), 2.Kurt Frederick, 3.Gerard Williams (Capt.), 5.Triston Hodge, 6.Kevon Goddard, 7.Jomal Williams (11.Adan Noel 84th minute), 9.Kadeem Corbin, 16.Alvin Jones, 17.Neil Benjamin Jr. (24.Isaiah Hudson 85th minute), 19.Briel Thomas, 99.Marcus Joseph.

Unused substitutes: 33.Jason Belfon (GK); 15.Otev Lawrence. 23.Kennedy Hinkson, 26.Isaiah Garcia, 27.Kierron Mason.

Coach: Stuart Charles-Fevrier

North East Stars: 21.Javon Sample (GK); 7.Hayden Tinto (18.Josiah Daniel 77th minute), 8.Saleem Henry, 9.Kordell Samuel (20.Dareem Daniel 67th minute), 11.Kyle Bartholomew, 15.Lashawn Roberts, 17.Shakqeem Joseph, 22.Allister Bernard (10.Rivaldo Coryat 57th minute), 24.Rakim Cabie, 27.Ross Dowden, 29.Stephen Punnette.

Unused substitutes: (GK); 2.Jabari Brathwaite, 14.Keithen Carter, 23.Sherwyn Williams, 30.Kareem Davidson.

Coach: Zoran Vranes

Match Officials
Referee: Cecile Hinds
Assistant Referee 1: Ainsley Rochard
Assistant Referee 2: Keron Mayers
Fourth Official: Nicholai Nyron
Match Commissioner: Cassie Moore