T&T Pro League
12 Dec 2008
- Written by Lasana Liburd (T&T Express)
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Neal & Massy Caledonia AIA stayed alive in the Trinidad and Tobago Football Federation (TTFF) FA Trophy competition on Wednesday night with a 4-1 extra-time win over St Ann's Rangers at the Manny Ramjohn Stadium, Marabella.But only the most partisan of supporters would have celebrated the final whistle after a low intensity affair that did little for the romance of knock out competition.
There were active periods during the match when players strolled to the sidelines to have a drink of water or change footwear and even the swapping of ends after the first half of extra time took three minutes.
If former national coach and Holland World Cup player Wim Rijsbergen-one of the more outspoken critics of the local game's laid-back approach-were present, he might have assaulted somebody.
Rangers showed up with just two fit players on their substitutes bench. Perhaps the rest were out doing Christmas shopping or auditioning for positions at bmobile Joe Public. Even worse, the Rangers employees who did turn out seemed to savour the FA Trophy challenge as much as teenaged boys enjoy painting their homes and scrubbing the bathrooms.
The St Ann's outfit scored first, mind you. Caledonia goalkeeper Michael Woods and captain Charles Pollard decided on an impromptu meeting to decide who would deal with a low Devon Modeste cross and Rangers attacker Shem McFarlane pounced to bury the loose ball in the 61st minute.
But the lead lasted just six minutes as Pollard redeemed himself by diverting a Sheldon Emmanuel freekick goalward and Akim Armstrong capitalised when Rangers goalkeeper and captain Shane Mattis spilled the ball.
Pencil down the name, Armstrong. The skillful 19-year-old midfielder has been a bright spot for Caledonia this season whether employed on the right flank or through the centre. But Rangers did not make Armstrong or Caledonia playmaker Densill Theobald, who was brilliant on the night, work hard enough.
The Rangers defence, which used Coneal Thomas as a sweeper, kept dropping off instead of condensing Â space for their opponents and Theobald had so much room that he literally walked with the ball at one point, just 30 yards from the opposing goal.
Caledonia should have won in regulation time but finally went ahead from the penalty spot, three minutes into extra time, as adventurous full back Kareem Joseph finished with typical assurance after a trip on veteran Kendall Velox.
One sensed that Rangers, who blew hot and cold all season, would have deserted the field to look for a parang side there and then but football rules do not allow for the Christmas spirit. So they and spectators suffered through a one-sided closing 27 minutes enlivened only by the odd risky Caledonia manoeuvre when they tried to knock the ball around Rangers hardman Joseph "Gouti" Peters without being kicked to pieces. Theobald and Walter Moore helped themselves to goals with crisp efforts while striker Jameel Perry might have had a hat-trick if he brought his scoring boots.
So Caledonia are into the FA semi-finals now. Best not to remember how they got there, though.