New Pro League head coach Angus Eve and his North East Stars squad threw out a challenge to Trinidad and Tobago’s established football order last night as the Sangre Grande stunned Caribbean champions, Neal & Massy Caledonia AIA, en route to a 3-1 win at the Hasely Crawford Stadium, Port of Spain.
There was something about the manner in which Caledonia was hassled off the ball and the impertinent way that 2006 World Cup striker Cornell Glen converted the opening goal that suggested it might be a pivotal moment.
Eve had seen it before—in his head.
“The game played out exactly how I thought it would,” Eve told Wired868. “I have played against Jamaal (Shabazz) and I have seen his Caledonia and Guyana play. He likes to play from the back, he likes 4-4-2; he tends to be a bit predictable.
“They would have thought they saw me play (in the pre-season) and I saw Jamaal did an interview saying they expected us to play 4-5-1. I think we surprised them.”
Caledonia AIA, which has played three CONCACAF Champions League games already, lined up in a 4-4-2 system that, as always, aimed to attack the flanks. Stars responded with a 3-5-2 formation that condensed space for the opposing centre forwards while its full backs pressed high against the Caledonia wingers.
Caledonia, with playmaner Densill Theobald back from a successful season with Indian team Dempo SC, looked to pull Stars asunder with clever ball movement. Stars, led by combative, stocky midfielder Jean-Luc Rochford, aimed to turn the contest into a battle of wills rather than skill.
The first half ended goalless with Caledonia marginally better but neither team able to get behind the opposing defence. Towering striker Jamal Gay just missed the near post with a powerful header from 16 yards, off a Theobald cross, but it was a rare moment of adventure.
“Caledonia is already in its season, so I expected (Caledonia) to be better on the ball and more match fit,” said Eve. “We were solid defensively and tried to restrict their chances…
“We thought we would wait and then press as a team and try to win the ball high up the pitch.”
The critical moment came as scripted. Caledonia and Guyana international left back Walter Moore tried to play a wall pass with teenaged compatriot Treyon Bobb rather than a simple pass back to his central defender.
The Stars duo of Jayson Joseph and Elijah Manners hustled Bobb off the ball and quickly relayed possession to Glen who strode at the retreating Caledonia defenders before placing into the far corner from the edge of the penalty area.