North East Stars grabbed its maiden Toyota Classic title on Friday night by defeating Defence Force 4-2 on penalties following a dramatic 2-2 draw in the 2012 Final at the Hasely Crawford Stadium.
Stars' goalie and eventual tournament MVP, Cleon John, made two saves during the shootout denying double goalscorer Rodell Elcock and Aklie Edwards.
While his teammates Cornell Glen, Gary Glasgow, Kerry Baptiste and Elton John were clinical in their strikes against goalkeeper Kevin Graham.
This after the Sangre Grande club, backed by its very vocal traveling supporters, needed a very late goal by Keryn Navarro to level the scores 2-2 in the third and final minute of injury time forcing the Toyota Classic Final to be decided on penalties for a third consecutive time.
Navarro held his cool at the back post to guide a shot past Graham after the Soldiers' defense failed to clear safely a freekick by Kennedy Hinkson which bubbled around too long for comfort.
By that time the premature celebration by the echoing sound of former Defence Force goalie Selwyn George throughout the stands was muted.
George's side had just allowed a 2-1 comeback advantage courtesy a pair of second half goals by central defender Elcock and grasp on the title slip away with seconds to go.
Elcock first towered the Stars defence to powerfully head past John off a Corey Rivers corner in the 58th minute to level the scores 1-1.
And in the 85th minute Elcock got to his double with another powerful header to beat John, this time off substitute Kerry Joseph's freekick, to better the opening item by Stars' Glenton Wolfe.
Goalkeeper Graham denied Micah Lewis in the 16th minute and from the resulting corner a minute later Lewis was again denied by the Defence Force custodian, but the loose ball in the area was welcomed by Wolfe who hammered a low strike finding the back of the net.
Despite missing defensive midfielder Curtis Gonzales and attackers Devorn Jorsling, Richard Roy and Kevon Carter, Defence Force dominated the chances while Stars without regular centre backs Seon Power and Kareem Moses were lucky on a couple occasions.
Goalkeeper John was forced to make a superb save in the 30th minute, denying a well struck right footed effort by Belgrave who was played inside the area by Jerwyn Balthazar's neat chip over the defense.
And in 42nd minute Belgrave tried his luck from distance and was a bit unfortunate with his effort dipping a bit too late.
Following Elcock's equalizer, Jemel Sebro shaved the outside of the near upright in a wonderful opening to add another item when he was played a measured pass by Joseph inside the area.
Another low one inside by Joseph in the 82nd minute was guided overbar by a fully lunged Keston Williams before Joseph's assist in Elcock's second item three minutes later.
However it just wasn't Defence Force's night, despite enjoying a wonderful run to the Final under assistant coach Marvin Gordon.
In the end, North East Stars' Angus Eve celebrated his first title as a head coach and a second Toyota Classic having been an assistant coach at Ma Pau SC in 2010 which defeated the Sangre Grande club in that Final on penalties.
Eve was named 2012 Toyota Classic Coach of the tournament and DIRECTV W Connection striker picked up the Most Goals award with 4 goals.
North East Stars 2 - 2 Defence Force
Glenton Wolfe 17', Keryn Navarro 83' ; Rodell Elcock 58', 85'
Kicks from the penalty mark
North East Stars 4 - Defence Force 2
Cornell Glen (scored) - Josimar Belgrave (scored)
Gary Glasgow (scored) - Rodell Elcock (saved)
Kerry Baptiste (scored) - Kerry Joseph (scored)
Elton John (scored) - Aklie Edwards (saved)
North East Stars--22.Cleon John; 11.Elton John, 3.Charles Pollard, 19.Glenton Wolfe (17.Jayson Joseph 40th), 5.Kevon Villaroel; 25.Keryn Navarro; 23.Kennedy Hinkson, 4.Kerry Baptiste, 7.Elijah Manners (12.Gary Glasgow 88th), 8.Micah Lewis (15.Kaydion Gabriel 67th); 13.Cornell Glen.
Defence Force--1.Kevin Graham; 14.Cory Rivers (capt), 20.Rodell Elcock, 5.Devin Jordan, 21.Aklie Edwards; 3.Keston Williams; 29.Jemel Sebro, 15.Jerwyn Balthazar, 12.Josimar Belgrave, 17.Ross Russell Jr. (18.Sean Narcis 63rd); 6.Michael Edwards (16.Kerry Joseph 59th).
Victory by shootout
North East Stars win 1st Toyota Classic
By Roger Seepersad (Express).
North East Stars clinched their first Toyota Classic title in dramatic style at Hasely Crawford Stadium on Friday night, defeating Defence Force 4-2 on kicks from the penalty mark after both sides were locked at 2-2 at the end of regulation time.
It was a victory the "Stars" and their fans will not soon forget, especially with the way the match played out.
North East went ahead in the 17th minute through Glenton Wolfe's effort. Defence Force regrouped in the second half to take the lead with Rodell Elcock using his head to score from set pieces in the 58th and 85th minutes before Keryn Navarro got the equaliser in the 90th minute to force a penalty shootout.
And riding the momentum from their last minute comeback, North East Stars scored all of their spot kicks with Cornell Glen, Gary Glasgow, Kerry Baptiste and Jayson Joseph all beating Defence Force goalkeeper Kevin Graham.
Defence Force on the other hand, started off well with Josimar Belgrave converting his kick before tournament MVP Cleon John came up big, saving Elcock's effort.
Both teams were missing a combined total of six players on national duties in the Caribbean Cup – centre-backs Kareem Moses and team captain Seon Power for North East while Defence Force were without regular starters Richard Roy (striker), Kevon Carter (midfielder), Curtis Gonzales (defensive midfielder) and forward Devorn Jorsling.
John almost kept out the third kick from Kerry Joseph but eventually won the game for his side when he saved Aklie Edwards' low left-footer to appease the North East fans who were kept at the edge of their seats for much of the second half.
But for the first 45 minutes, the "Stars' " fans would have enjoyed the show, watching their side outplay Defence Force to take a 1-0 lead.
They opened the scoring after a short corner from Elijah Manners. The ball eventually fell to Micah Lewis, who drew the keeper Graham off his line before passing off to Wolfe whose shot sailed into an open goal.
Glen had a golden opportunity to double the lead right before half time but "Army" keeper Graham was up to the task, making a good save to keep his side in the match.
That served as a wake-up call for Defence Force who were more aggressive in the second half and eventually evened up the game 13 minutes into the half.
It was skipper Corey Rivers' corner that found the head of Elcock who out-jumped his marker to put the ball in the back of the net, beating John at the far post.
With five minutes left, Defence Force went ahead from another set piece. This time, it was Kerry Joseph sending in a free kick from about 35 yards out and Elcock again rose higher than the rest to head the ball past John for the second time in the match.
Defence Force would have thought they had the game won, taking the lead with just five minutes left. One Defence Force fan even started parading up and down the main stand proclaiming his team's superiority.
But North East Stars never gave up and eventually pulled off an amazing comeback in stoppage time. With all the Stars players in the penalty box, for a corner--including keeper John--Defence Force saw the opportunity for a quick break but instead gave away a free kick in midfield and that was all Stars needed to tie up the match.
It was Belgrave from Defence Force who gave away the spot kick close to the centre of the field, fouling Kennedy Hinkson.
Hinkson took the kick which landed in the crowded Defence Force penalty area and after a failed clearance, and an overhead effort by a North East Stars player which went straight up in the air, the ball eventually fell to the feat of former national striker Glasgow whose shot rebounded off a defender to Navarro who buried it past Graham to send the small crowd into a frenzy.
Then North East pulled off something special. It was their second penalty shootout win in the tournament after they defeated Stokely Vale 4-1 on penalties, following a 1-1 tie in the semi-final.