Defending champions Central FC are one match away from successfully defending the title that has more worth to the “Couva Sharks” than the $100,000 winners’ prize but must overcome North East Stars, a club hungry for their first taste of the First Citizens Cup, when both sides meet in the Final on Friday 31 October from 8.15 pm at the Ato Boldon Stadium.
Both Central FC and North East Stars advanced out of the semi-final round last Friday via kicks from the penalty spot, defeating Police FC 3-1 and San Juan Jabloteh 4-3 respectively, following goalless draws at the Couva venue.
Trinidad and Tobago national team goalkeeper Jan-Michael Williams, made three saves, mirroring that of his kicks from the penalty spot performance against Point Fortin Civic in the quarterfinal round, to secure Central’s place in the Final in an attempt to defend the first domestic title achieved by the young and ambitious Pro League club.
The Central ‘keeper denied Trent Noel, Hector Sam and Elijah Belgrave and only conceded against Noel Williams, while teammates Ataullah Guerra, Jean-Luc Rochford and substitute Akeem Benjamin found the back of the Police net guarded by goalkeeper Adrian Foncette.
“Jan is definitely number one ‘keeper in the country; very experienced and very good,” said Central FC head coach Zoran Vranes after his team’s win against Police. “I was very confident that we were going to win. We constantly practice penalties and the guys were ready to score.”
Central dominated chances on Friday night but failed to find the back of the net. The only time Vranes’ side was able to get past Foncette in regulation time, the crossbar got in the way to keep out a 63rd minute Guerra effort.
“We played very well,” Vranes explained. “We dominated ball possession and combination but too many chances (we didn’t score). To have a winning team in the right way we have to solve our finishing (problems). They (Police) surprised me but if we scored just once they would have been down.”
Meanwhile Police FC head coach Richard Hood highlighted that his side wasn’t up to full strength without the likes of team captain and midfielder Todd Ryan, and defenders Anton Hutchinson and Jasimar Ashers due to illness.
However he complemented the performance of his players, giving special mention to defender Elijah Belgrave, who complained of illness before kick-off but braved the semi-final contest for his team.
Commenting on the semi-final exit Hood said, “When you reach a (penalty) shootout it’s basically a raffle and it just didn’t go our way.
“I told the guys that (our performance against Central) is what we need to drive us forward. I have no doubt in my mind that this team is capable of winning titles; we just need to come out and work consistently,” concluded the Police coach.
North East Stars, in the second semi-final, secured their place in the Final by slightly bettering the kickers of Jabloteh against the San Juan club’s second choice goalie Raheem Belgrave.
Jabloteh had a setback midway through the first half when a collision between Dario Holmes and first choice ‘keeper Jamaican Shane Mattis collided just inside the box.
Mattis, who produced two saves on kicks from the penalty spot in the play-off to defeat Defence Force 3-2 and was instrumental in his team’s 2-0 quarter-final win against six-time winners W Connection, picked up a head injury and was withdrawn from the match before he was later whisked off to the hospital for further checks.
Rookie Belgrave was called into action a few times but he was never really tested as both Jabloteh and North East Stars cancelled out each other.
San Juan Jabloteh head coach Keith Jeffrey said, “They (North East Stars) sat back and soaked it in. They tried to sit back and play on the counter-attack but at the end of the day we got good chances to eliminate them and we didn’t.”
But Jeffrey, unbeaten in all competitions prior to kickoff, added, “We are having a good run and competing better this season. We can only grow from strength to strength and we will be there in the league and knockouts to give trouble.”
“It was a really good game,” Stars head coach Angus Eve said. “I thought both teams played hard. Jabloteh really came out. They have a lot of Jamaicans in their ranks and it seems they gelled really well with the local boys.
They play a very combative style and we didn’t really get into our passing style tonight until later down in the second half. But I thought going into (kicks from the penalty mark) was a fair reflection of how the game went. We’ve been practicing penalties religiously and we are seeing the fruits of that.”
Tobagonian attacker Andell Noray gave Jabloteh an undesirable start on kicks when his attempt flew high overbar before kicks by teammates Adrian Reid (scored), Fabian Reid (saved by Cleon John), Kerry Baptiste (scored) and Newton Sterling (scored).
While Keron Cummings, Tyrone Charles, Aquil Selby and Kion Joseph defeated Belgrave, who denied substitute Kennedy Hinkson on the Sangre Grande club’s fourth kick.
“It feels great to be in a Final,” added an elated Eve, who also led his side to kicks from the penalty spot win against Caledonia AIA 4-1 in the quarterfinal round following a 1-1 draw. “We haven’t been in a Final since [the 2012-2013 season when we won the Toyota Classic] and it feels good to be in the first Final of this season against Central, a very tough team. We now have to do our homework and come back for that game.
“We are really hungry. We haven’t won anything since the first season I took over at North East Stars and last season we left with nothing although having a respectable 2013-2014. The goal this season is to win at least two Cups and qualify for the Concacaf Champions League, so this is definitely where we want to be today.”
North East Stars will have the coming week to prepare for next Friday’s Final, while Central’s week will include rescheduled Digicel Pro League Round One Match Day Two clash against rivals W Connection on Tuesday from 7 pm at the Ato Boldon Stadium.
Vanes said he is disappointed at the timing of the rescheduled league fixture but as defending champions of the First Citizens Cup, he will do his best to balance both.
“We have tough games and we don’t have too many players to choose from. I have to calculate my decisions well. It would be good if we get a good result against W Connection and at same time get ready to play in the Final (of the First Citizens Cup),” ended the Central FC coach.
First Citizens Cup 2014 Semi-Final Round Results - Friday 24 October
Central FC 0 vs Police FC 0
(Central won the match 3-1 on kicks from the penalty spot)
Kicks from the penalty spot
Police FC 1 Central FC 3
Trent Noel (saved) Ataullah Guerra (scored)
Noel Williams (scored) Jean-Luc Rochford (scored)
Hector Sam (saved) Akeem Benjamin (scored)
Elijah Belgrave (saved)
North East Stars 0 vs San Juan Jabloteh 0
(North East won the match 4-3 on kicks from the penalty spot)
Kicks from the penalty spot
San Juan Jabloteh 3 North East Stars 4
Andell Noray (overbar) Keron Cummings (scored)
Adrian Reid (scored) Tyrone Charles (scored)
Fabian Reid (saved) Aquil Selby (scored)
Kerry Baptiste (scored) Kennedy Hinkson (saved)
Newton Sterling (scored) Kion Joseph (scored)
Central FC: 30. Akel Clarke, 6. Leston Paul (C) (19. Nathaniel Garcia 77th), 5. Akeem Benjamin, 45. Ataullah Guerra (99. Dwight Quintero 61st), 11. Darren Mitchell, 7. Jason Marcano, 14. Jean-Luc Rochford, 15. Kaydion Gabriel, 17. Marcelle Francois, 10. Marvin Oliver, 8. Sean de Silva (18. Kevon Goddard 88th)
Unused substitutes: 23. Denzil Daniel, 1. Javon Sample (GK), 27. Shaquille Williams, 13. Seon Thomas
Coach: Zoran Vranes
Police FC—18. Adrian Foncette, 4. Karlon Murray (Yellow Card), 8. Kurdell Brathwaite (Yellow Card), 12. Micah Lewis, 15. Jameel Perry (9. Hector Sam 65th), 19. Christon Thomas, 20. Elijah Belgrave, 21. Todd Ryan (C), 24. Jibri Mc David (29. Clevon Mc Fee 60th), 25. Noel Williams, 30. Marcus Chandool
Unused substitutes—2. Jasimar Ashers, 7. Brendon Christopher, 17. Dexter Alleyne, 34. Keston Mata (GK), 36. Tafari Williams
North East Stars: 22. Cleon John (C), 5. Aquil Selby, 8. Adrian Noel (6. Jeromie Williams 79th), 9. Tyrone Charles, 12. Jayson Joseph, 14. Dwane James, 15. Glenton Wolfe, 25. Keryn Navarro, 35. Jordan Devonish (10. Keron Cummings 55th), 36. Anthony Diaz (3. Kareem Richardson 65th), 44. Kion Joseph
Unused substitutes: 1. Stefan Berkeley (GK), 40. Jomoul Francois, 42. Taryk Sampson, 43. Reon Moore
Coach: Angus Eve
San Juan Jabloteh: 30. Shane Mattis, 18. Jevon Morris, 22. Calib Sturge, 12. Brendon Boucaud (16. Nyron Jones 85th), 6. Dario Holmes, 19. Dillon Kirton, 24. Adrian Reid, 7. Andell Noray, 17. Fabian Reid, 8. Newtown Sterling (15. Duran Dilworth 76th), 9. Johan Peltier (14. Shaquille Bertrand 63rd)
Unused substitutes: 36. Raheem Belgrave (GK), 10. Kerry Baptiste, 15. Duran Dilworth, 25. Troy Moses
Coach: Keith Jeffrey