Kerry Baptiste scored from the spot to boot his former employers and holders Central FC out of the 2016 Digicel Pro Bowl as North East Stars celebrated a 2-1 revenge win on Tuesday over the “Couva Sharks”, who had crushed the Sangre Grande club’s dreams of a CONCACAF Champions League qualifying spot.
Coach Ross Russell’s men advances to meet four-time Pro Bowl champions W Connection, who had to come from behind twice before holding off Police FC 4-3 in the earlier game of the Ato Boldon Stadium quarter-final round double-header.
Also advancing into the semi-final round – one step closer to the TT$100,000 winner takes all final on May 20 – were San Juan Jabloteh, who defeated St. Ann’s Rangers 4-3 in a penalty shootout following a 1-1 draw in the first game of a quarter-final double-header at the Hasely Crawford Stadium before a 2-0 revenge win had to suffice as Defence Force ousted Morvant Caledonia United, who had trashed the Army/Coast Guard combination 5-1 in the quarter-finals of the Lucozade Sport Goal Shield last month en route to lifting the title.
Defence Force, Pro Bowl champions in 2012, and two-time (2005 & 2006) champions Jabloteh will contest each other in semi-final One on Friday 13 from 6pm at the Ato Boldon Stadium before Connection, champions in 2004, 2007, 2013 & 2014, take on the 2013 defeated finalists North East Stars from 8pm in semi-final Two.
The 34-year-old Baptiste, who is on a rich scoring form in the league since switching to North East Stars from Central in the January/February transfer window, netted the eventual winner when he converted from the penalty spot in the 67th-minute – beating a fully stretched goalkeeper Javon Sample to restore the Sangre Grande club’s lead 2-1 after defender Andre Ettienne had tripped goal-bound Anthony Wolfe just inside the box.
Sample, the Central third choice goalkeeper after Jan-Michael Williams and Akel Clarke (both injured), had made back-to-back saves in the fourth minute of play to deny Gorean Highley and Anthony Wolfe before thwarting a Baptiste effort from the resulting corner, but was unable to match the latter’s penalty spot strike.
Anthony Guppy had broken the deadlock four minutes before the break, giving the Stars a 1-0 lead over the “Couva Sharks” who had defeated them 4-0 in the Digicel Pro League on Sunday to secure a second consecutive DPL crown while ending the fourth-positioned Sangre Grande outfit’s attempt for a top-two league finish which qualifies teams to the Caribbean Football Union (CFU) Club Championship, which is the Caribbean qualifier competition towards the CONCACAF Champions League.
Central, who were also recently crowned Caribbean champions for a second consecutive time, had levelled the scores 1-1 in the 59th-minute through midfielder Sean De Silva but failed to find another equaliser after Baptiste’s penalty strike.
De Silva put a rebound strike past Glenroy Samuel after the Stars goalie had acrobatically kept out a Marcano effort in a play that all started from a shocking decision by left-back Jesus Perez to hurdle a faked challenge by Central hard-man Jamal Jack who was allowed to advance forward before playing a pass to Marcano.
Central’s best chance of another goal arrived two minutes later when forward Ricardo John, for a second time on the night, saw his headed attempt hit the crossbar due to Samuel’s intervention, after a corner swung in by De Silva.
Wolfe (A) – played through by a perfectly-weighted Gorean Highley pass – later failed to put the game further out of the defending champions’ reach after being caged in by goalkeeper Sample and defender Ettienne just inside the area. However the 2-1 result was enough to put the Sangre Grande club through to the next round against Connection.
Connection, who defeated Police 3-0 when their last won the Pro Bowl title in the 2014 final, were trailing 1-0 after 20 minutes when midfielder Kaaron Foster swooped in to capitalise on an errant Daneil Cyrus back-pass by hitting past a hapless goalkeeper Julani Archibald.
And despite pulling level through a 37th-minute headed goal by Jomal Williams off a Dimitrie Apai cross, Connection were on the wrong end of a 2-1 score at the break after forward Jameel Perry restored the “Lawmen” lead a minute before the half with a well-executed header off an Elijah Belgrave cross to find Archibald’s top corner.
But following some half-time tweaking by assistant coach Earl Jean, who leads the team with coach Stuart Charles-Fevrier away on personal business, Connection deservingly found a second equaliser when Suriname international Dimitrie Apai slapped home a Kurt Frederick cross for a 2-2 score.
Connection then took the lead for the first time when Gerard Williams converted from the penalty spot, beating goalkeeper Adrian Foncette in the 64th-minute for a 3-2 lead following a handball against Police defender Elijah Belgrave.
The result slipped further out of the coach Richard Hood’s side’s grip when Connection substitute Anfernee Frederick, less than a minute on the pitch, executed a cool finish past Foncette thanks to a perfectly placed Andre Toussaint pass to set the Dominican midfielder free on goal for a 4-2 lead.
Belgrave did pull a goal back, reducing the deficit 3-4 in the 82nd minute when he headed a flicked on Dylon King corner past Archibald, but the “Lawmen” were left ruing missed chances that could have put Connection in bigger problems from the first half.
Although redeeming himself later on, Perry failed to give effort on a perfectly-placed Kareem Freitas cross that had goal written all over it in the 24th-minute.
Then on a much better chance just over the half-hour mark, utility player Clevon Mc Fee spilled miserably overbar at the goalmouth after weaving across the six-yard area following a save by Archibald to keep out a strike from Perry.
Police also had two late tries to level the game with goal-scorer Belgrave controlling off his chest before volleying inches wide with three minutes of regular time left and on the final minute defender Anton Hutchinson missed from an overhead attempt as the “Lawmen” bowed out.
W Connection 4 (Jomal Williams 37’, Dimitrie Apai 57’, Gerard Williams 64’ penalty, Anfernee Frederick 78’) vs Police FC 3 (Kaaron Foster 20’, Jameel Perry 44’, Elijah Belgrave 82’), at the Ato Boldon Stadium;
Central FC 1 (Sean De Silva 59’) vs North East Stars 2 (Anthony Guppy 41’, Kerry Baptiste 67’ penalty), at the Ato Boldon Stadium
St. Ann’s Rangers 1 (Keron Cornwall 14’) vs San Juan Jabloteh 1 (Garth Thomas 86’)
Jabloteh won 4-3 on the penalty shootout, at the Hasely Crawford Stadium;
Defence Force 2 (Ross Russell Jr. 20’, Richard Roy 90’) vs Morvant Caledonia United 0, at the Hasely Crawford Stadium.
W Connection: 18.Julani Archibald (GK) (Yellow Card), 3.Gerrd Williams (Yellow Card), 8.Briel Thomas (Yellow Card), 10.Jomal Williams (46.Anfernee Frederick 77th minute), 12.Dimitrie Apai, 14.Andre Toussaint, 16.Alvin Jones, 20.Jamal Charles (17.Aikim Andrews 75th minute), 25.Daneil Cyrus (Capt.), 27.Jelani Peters (4.Maurce Ford 46th minute)
Unused substitutes: 1.Terrence Lewis, 5.Triston Hodge, 26.Paolo De La Guardia Alvarez, 48.Zaine Pierre
Assistant coach: Earl Jean
Police FC: 18.Adrian Foncette (GK), 5.Annton Hutchinson, 6.Jubri Mc David, 9.Makesi Lewis (Yellow Card), 10.Kareem Freitas, 14.Kaaron Foster (30.Dylon King 80th minute), 15.Jameel Perry, 17.Dexter Alleyne (32.Akile Thomas 79th minute), 20.Elijah Belgrave, 21.Todd Ryan (Capt.), 29.Clevon Mc Fee
Unused substitutes: 2.Jasimar Ashers, 26.Kadeem Riley, 28.Kern Caesar (GK), 43.Dillon Kirton, 39.Joshua Leach
Coach: Richard Hood
Referee: Gyasi Mc Donald
Central FC: 1.Javon Sample (GK), 3.Keion Goodridge, 4.Andre Ettienne (Yellow Card), 7.Jason Marcano, 8.Sean De Silva, 12.Jamal Jack, 15.Kaydion Gabriel, 19.Nathaniel Garcia (9.Kadeem Corbin 60th minute), 22.Leston Paul (Capt.), 24.Kevon Villaroel, 45.Ricardo John (14.Nicholas Dillon 79th minute)
Unused substitutes: 5.Derron John, 30.Levi Fernandes (GK), 18.Michael Darko, 25.Elijah Manners,
Coach: Dale Saunders
North East Stars: 32.Glenroy Samuel, 3.Kion Joseph, 4.Jesus Perez, 5.Ryan Stewart, 6.Jean-Luc Rochford (21.Neil Mitchell 70th minute), 8.Anthony Guppy (7.Kerry Daniel 85th minute), 9.Gorean Highley (14.Chike Sullivan 70th minute), 19.Glenton Wolfe, 25.Keryn Navarro, 26.Anthony Wolfe (Capt.) (Yellow Card), 40.Kerry Baptiste (Yellow Card)
Unused substitutes: 22.Cleon John (GK), 23.Brendon Figuera, 27.Quincy Charles, 39.Taryk Sampson
Coach: Ross Russell
Referee: Rodphin Harris