DIRECTV W Connection are proud consecutive holders of the Digicel Charity Shield after defeating rivals and last season’s Digicel Pro League winners Defence Force 4-2 on Friday night.
A double by eventual match MVP and forward, Hashim Arcia, and a goal each by Silvio Spann and Surinamese attacker Stefano Rijssel at the Hasely Crawford Stadium resulted in Connection bettering the soldiers in a second half goals-spree.
The club is yet to determine a charity of choice though. Apart from the Shield, which is contested by the League champions and the Digicel Pro Bowl holders, title sponsor, Digicel, donates TT$10,000 to a charity of choice to the winner.
“As a board we will meet,” explained Connection owner/president David John Williams. “We have one or two charities we have thought about, but we will make a final decision over the weekend. It may be a charity in Point Fortin or some other charity. But we are happy that we are able to put our name on the shield again and put the proceeds to charity.”
Arcia, who struck just wide of the far post in the 9th minute, broke the deadlock a minute inside the second period for a 1-0 Connection advantage when he turned inside left wing-back Aklie Edwards and slipped a low strike inside the near post beating Defence Force's second choice goalkeeper Sheldon Clarke.
It was from a diagonal pass from Brazilian midfielder Celio Da Silva Santos that set Arcia alight inside the area, while Edwards who injured himself in the process didn't take further part.
But two minutes later, the 48th minute, Defence Force leveled the scores 1-1 when striker Richard Roy, who struck the crossbar in the 36th minute with a header off a perfect Kerry Joseph cross, was offered another Joseph delivery and headed back across to beat goalkeeper Alejandro Figueroa.
However Connection were back in front 2-1, by the 53rd minute, thanks to a superb Spann freekick. It was retribution for the midfielder and Connection captain on the night after hitting the root of the upright in the 14th minute from the penalty spot after referee Neil Brizan ruled that defender Rodell Elcock had clipped down Connection right-back Joao Ananias Jordao Jr inside the area.
Spann’s freekick climbed the wall and dipped low to sink inside the base of the upright following a foul above the area, giving goalkeeper Clarke no chance.
And it was from another take down inside the area by Elcock that Connection won another penalty in the 70th minute.
Arcia, who went sliding across the area in the challenge by Elcock, stepped up to the spot a minute later and buried his kick down the centre of the goal to beat a wrong sided Clarke for a 3-1 Connection advantage.
The “Savonnetta Boys” found the back of the net again in the 75th minute for a comfortable 4-1 score. Substitute Rijssel, who replaced an injured Colombian forward Yefer Lozano in the 35th minute, made a solo run through the defense and into the area before confidently finishing past Clarke.
Defence Force, meanwhile, wasn’t totally out of the game. Had the soldiers bury all of their chances it would have been an even score-line
Following Roy’s item in the 48th minute, the striker slipped a pass to Ross Russell Jr inside the area, but the midfielder’s tame effort allowed a comfortable take for Figueroa. And in the 67th minute an on target crack at goal by Jerwyn Balthazar was miraculously headed over by Jordao Jr.
However the Connection defense failed to take care of another deep Joseph cross and energetic teenaged midfield substitute Adrian Welch was excellent to knock in the soldiers’ second item for the 4-2 score line.
On the other end Clarke’s was called upon to block out a powerful strike from distance by Connection substitute Neil Benjamin Jr in injury time.
“I think tonight we were about 60-70 percent in terms of our performance,” said Connection Head Coach Stuart Charles Fevrier following the match. “…I like certain parts of the game but we need to be more consistent throughout the 90 minutes.
“But I was quite pleased with the result. Our objective was to win the game. It was a title we were defending and for us to get some much needed practice because we have two (Concacaf) Champions League games coming up and that is foremost on our minds right now.”
Connection, who defeated Defence Force 2-0 in the inaugural Charity Shield last season, are also preparing for two remaining Group 1 matches in the Concacaf Champions League against Panama’s Arabe Unido (September 19) and Major League Soccer outfit Houston Dynamo (September 25), and while the CCL is high on the agenda, Fevrier didn’t play down the value of the Charity Shield.
“It’s another title,” he said. “The charity shield is another competition so to speak. In the league it’s an official competition and we are a professional team and that’s what they pay us for… to win games… to win competition.”
"It’s always nice to win," shared John Williams "It’s a charity shield and we donate the proceeds to a charity of our choice and it’s a good initiative by the league. But of course, (once) we are playing for a trophy, W Connection would compete. It’s another title. It’s good that we have a new squad and we are able to start the season with a trophy."
The Connection boss added, “I think it’s good in terms of our buildup against Arabe Unido of Panama. A lot of people fail to understand that if we win our next two games we automatically go into the quarterfinals.
A lot of people don’t know that we are still in the competition, for a win at home against Unido of Panama will take us to Houston needing a win, and it’s not beyond us in the Concacaf Champions League. [The Charity Shield] is a good start, it’s a good fillip for the team and we look forward to the next two games.”
Defence Force 2 – 4 W Connection
Richard Roy 48', Adrian Welch 87' ; Hashim Arcia 46', 71'(PEN), Silvio Spann 53', Stefano Rijssel 75'
Defence Force – 25.Sheldon Clarke, 14.Corey Rivers (capt), 5.Devin Jordan, 9.Richard Roy (34.Curtly Dodds 80th), 11.Kevon Carter, 15.Jerwyn Balthazar (81.Adrian Welch 69th), 16.Kerry Joseph, 17.Ross Russell Jr. (Yellow Card) (12.Josimar Belgrave 76th), 18.Sean Narcis (Yellow Card) (32.Samuel Delice 62nd), 20.Rodell Elcock (Yellow Card) (2.Glynn Franklyn 80th), 21.Aklie Edwards (4.Marvin Jones 48th)
Coach – Ross Russell
W Connection – 21.Alejandro Figueroa (18.Julani Archibald (80th), 7.Silvio Spann (capt) (11.Tremain Shayn Paul 72nd), 3.Gerard Williams, 4.Daneil Cyrus, 6.Celio Da Silva Santos, 14.Hashim Arcia (28.Yhon Stiven Lopez 75th), 19.Leslie Russell (25.Christian Viveros 72nd), 24.Joao Ananias Jordao Jr. (39.Alvin Jones 76th), 27.Yefer Lozano (26.Stefano Rijssel 35th), 31.Jerrel Britto (65.Neil Benjamin Jr. 69th)
Coach – Stuart Charles Fevrier
Match Referee – Neil Brizan.