Even North East Stars coach Angus Eve could find no argument to deny that Club Sando deserved their place in the 2014 Toyota Classic semi-finals.
Super League leaders Club Sando scored a 1-0 victory over Stars at Ato Boldon Stadium on Friday night, continuing their giant-killing in the tournament, which saw them defeat three Pro League teams in the 2013 competition, before losing 2-0 to Pro League champions W Connection in the final.
Jack Weedon put in a superbly-taken free-kick in the dying stages to win the match. Goalkeeper Cleon John seemed to be anticipating free-kick specialist Nigel Daniel putting the ball to his left. Instead, Weedon, who initially looked like a decoy, took the shot first time, putting the ball to the right corner and beating the startled Stars goalie.
The winning goal came as no surprise to the Club Sando supporters who grew more vocal, as their players dominated the professional team for long spells.
“One set of players wanted the game more than the other,” said Eve, who branded the approach of his players as unprofessional.
“They thought they could just come on the field and win the game simply because they play in a higher division than the other team,” Eve said.
Stars were offered, but refused an early gift within the opening five minutes, when Jomoul Francois intercepted a poor back pass, got past goalie Alexei Julien, but still placed his shot wide. Having survived the early scare, Club Sando grew confident and their followers, louder.
The lower division team took over the first half, so much so, that within half hour, Stars coach Eve made a double switch, taking off Francois and bringing on Keron Cummings and Kennedy Hinkson to boost the midfield, which was being overrun. Having made the changes, Eve got better production in the second half when striker Tyronne Charles twice missed the far corner shooting across goal.
“In making those two changes I was sending a message to the players that I was not standing for the lack of professionalism they were displaying,” Eve declared.
It was a good game. Not many clear chances were created, but the build-up was good, especially by Club Sando. It could be argued that Club Sando are the equivalent of a Pro League team themselves, having the players, but not the finances to play at the highest level.
As national coach Stephen Hart watched from the stands, a couple of national Under-20s made their mark, Neveal Hackshaw defending for Stars, while midfielder Akeem Humphrey was particularly prominent for Club Sando. And at age 40, former Guyanese captain Charles Pollard still played a big role at the back for Club Sando and was seen scolding defender Devorn Drayton, after he made a second poor pass across the penalty area.
Technical director Muhammad Isa felt that over 90 minutes, the Anthony-Streete trained Club Sando deserved victory.
“I thought we had a very good first half and we did enough in the second half to win the game,” stated Isa, a former Trinidad and Tobago national football coach.