HASELY CRAWFORD STADIUM, Port of Spain – Forward Stefano Rijssel scored twice and set up another, scored by Joevin Jones, as recently crowned Digicel Pro League champions W Connection wrapped up the 2013-2014 season by winning the Digicel Pro Bowl title on Friday night.
The "Savonnetta Boys", also the winners of this season's Digicel Charity Shield, Toyota Classic and FA Trophy titles, claiming their fourth major title and fifth overall this season with a 3-0 win against an unfamiliar finalist Police FC despite a valiant performance by the "Lawmen" goalkeeper Adrian Foncette.
“As a captain it feels great [on our accomplishment this season],” said W Connection midfielder Gerard Williams prior to the medals and trophy presentation.
The St. Kitts/Nevis international added, "First full season (as captain) and it’s great to bring home five titles. But I must give thanks to my teammates for the respect and attitude they showed to me as captain. I feel proud.”
Commenting on the Pro Bowl Final, Gerard said, “A lot of credit to Police. They came out and played especially in the first half. But in the second half we [executed] a high tempo, tested them, and fortunately we got three goals.”
Police and Foncette, a former Trinidad and Tobago Under 20 goalkeeper, held themselves together creditably for the first half against a side that boasts the title-winning pedigree but later realised the superior quality and fitness of their opponents.
“We had a good chat at the break and spoke about the things that we did well and the things we could have done better, and how we were going to approach the second half,” explained Police head coach Richard Hood following the match.
Hood said he did warn his players of the consequences of a slow restart, something that has plagued his side all season.
“I told them it was a dangerous time for us and we need to go out and get ourselves ready and refocused again, and I think we failed to do that,” said the Police coach.
He admitted that a few of his players complained of tiredness ahead of the restart and that in the second period “we were flat, we couldn’t pick ourselves up.”
In a space of three minutes inside the second half, Police, contesting their first Final in 18 years, were trailing 2-0 after surrendering to the firepower of Connection.
Suriname international Rijssel broke the deadlock in the 52nd minute for a 1-0 advantage after blasting low past Foncette and into the far netting following a lapse in defence by Police.
Rijssel then became provider in the 54th minute when his cross from the left and into the area was hammered into the back of the net by midfielder (J) Jones for a 2-0 cushion following another defensive lapse by the "Lawmen".
Another of three Connection starting forwards, Jerrel Britto, who headed wide of the target in the 12th minute, later tried his luck on the 62nd minute but his low attempt was pushed behind for a corner by Foncette.
And from the resulting corner Foncette, who two minutes later blocked out a crack from distance by right-fullback Alvin Jones, was rescued by the crossbar.
But Connection, the 2004, 2007 and 2013 winners, were lifted by a two-goal advantage and continued to dominate the second period towards their fourth Pro Bowl title.
Goalscorer (J) Jones returned a goal-scoring favour for Rijssel with a low cross behind the Police defence in the 70th minute but Foncette pulled off a one-handed save.
Four minutes later Foncette, who is coached by his father Glennon Foncette, made back-to-back point-blank saves denying Connection left-fullback Kurt Frederick, before the St. Lucia international lifted his third try overbar.
Foncette made another save in the 76th minute denying (J) Jones, who also had wide efforts in the 26th and 89th minutes.
But on the 78th minute Foncette was hung out to dry, and Rijssel completed his double and Connection's 3-0 score-line.
Substitutes Christian Viveros and Neil Benjamin Jr. had combined on the right, before the latter sent a low cross that somehow made its way through the Police defence to find a free Rijssel, who hit past Foncette from the top of the six yard area.
“It’s a great feeling," said Rijssel over his match-winning performance. "I prepared for it. So mentally I was strong because of my preparation for the Final.”
Responding to his team's five-title haul this season, the striker added, “Really, really great performance. Second season with the club for me and it think it's a great achievement.”
Rijssel was deservingly named the Player of the Match, and although Foncette only walked away with a runners-up medal, had won the hearts of many the showed up at the Hasely Crawford Stadium to witness the final match of the 2013-2014 Pro League calendar.
Foncette also executed heroics in the first half, foiling a low laser by Frederick in the 12th minute and a superb save in the 34th minute putting behind a low powerful Rijssel strike.
A minute later the Police goalie, clearly encouraged by the stage denied Connection defender Leslie Joel Russell's point blank header from a (J) Jones corner.
“I think he (Foncette) is one of the best goalkeepers in the league,” said Police midfielder and team captain Todd Ryan following the match.
Commenting on his team's performance, the 30-year-old Ryan said, “It’s a young team on unfamiliar territory in terms of Finals.
“We only have a couple players in the team that played at this level [before] in Finals. We were panicking a bit and didn’t really play our football. We are a team, although we may lose, that keeps the ball very good. Tonight we struggled to keep the ball.”
He said the lack of experience to hold concentration at such a stage, and after the opening Connection item, resulted in his side’s collapse.
“We conceded one and then it went haywire,” he said. “But as a Police player I feel very proud being in a Final. I know, with the present team, it’s only better things to come.”
Police seemed very dependent on 38-year-old former Toyota/TT Pro League Player of the Year and ex-Trinidad and Tobago international Trent Noel and Ryan in midfield.
And as expected the midfield duo wasn't a match for a much, much younger and exceedingly fit W Connection, while lone Police forward Jameel Perry was starved of the ball.
Perry, who scored a hat-trick against San Juan Jabloteh in his team's 4-2 quarterfinal round and a double against Defence Force in a 4-2 semi-final win, stood as the tournament's top scorer with 5 goals.
Perry clearly had a miserable Final without an attempt on goal despite a couple dangerous runs, and it would have served the "Lawmen" better had his brother and strike partner Kareem Perry not been red carded in the semi-final round.
Wide attacking midfielder Christon Thomas returned to coach Richard Hood's side for the Final, after weeks of non-involvement due to Police training.
Thomas had a performance but his only look at goal came in the 33rd minute and curled his effort wide of the far post after evading Frederick inside the area.
Police's next best effort came in the 24th minute from an Elijah Belgrave free kick from 25 yards out which was struck with immense power but slightly off target as it swooshed just wide of the upper corner.
And in the 18th and 28th minutes midfielder Kenaz Williams and defender Anton Hutchinson respectively, were off target.
Digicel Pro Bowl 2014 Final
W Connection 3—0 Police FC
Stefano Rijssel 52', 78', Joevin Jones 54'
W Connection—18. Julani Archibald, 3. Gerard Williams (C), 7. Silvio Spann (25. Christian Viveros 65th), 10. Joevin Jones (Yellow Card), 12. Jerrel Britto (65. Neil Benjamin Jr. 72nd), 14. Hashim Arcia (40. Jomal Williams 85th), 15. Mekeil Williams, 19. Leslie Joel Russell, 20. Stefano Rijssel, 39. Alvin Jones, 2. Kurt Frederick
Unused substitutes—13. Devaughn Elliot, 22. Aquelius Sylvester (GK), 26. Eden Charles, 29. Mickaeel Gem Gordon
Coach—Stuart Charles Fevrier
Police FC—18. Adrian Foncette, 21. Todd Ryan (C) (23. LJ Akeem Mitchell 84th), 5. Anton Hutchinson (Yellow Card), 6. Kenaz Williams, 19. Christon Thomas, 10. Trent Noel, 15. Jameel Perry, 13. Elijah Roberts (12. Vernell Ramirez 56th), 17. Dexter Alleyne, 20. Elijah Belgrave, 29. Clevon Mc Fee
Unused substitutes—24. Ariei Mc David, 25. Kemron Purcell, 31. Theon Brown (GK), 26. Wendell Joseph, 22. Aaron Downing,
Match Referee—Neal Brizan
First Assistant—Ainsley Rochard
Second Assistant—Caleb Wales
Fourth Official—Gyasi Mc Donald